August 27th, 2004


If you're like me -- and I fervently wish, for your sake, that you aren't -- there are words that inspire obsessive-compulsive revulsion and words that inspire obsessive-compulsive attraction. The list changes over time, but not dramatically. "Inextricably" is one that has fallen under the latter rubric for many years now. I love the word. But it also makes me anxious. While many people freely deploy the adverb without qualification, I live in fear that, should I take this bold step, I will commit a grave error. So I write, "inextricably bound up with ______," or, "inextricably caught up in ______," instead of a simple, "inextricably."

My reasoning is that it's only possible for something to resist being extricated if it's tangled up with something else. Whether that something else actually needs to be specified, however, is unclear. Being naturally timid, I have learned to err on the side of safety. Now, though, I'm starting to see light streaming in at the end of the hallway. Henry James is lending me his hypotactic assistance:
At last I took my way home again, slowly getting all but inextricably lost, as I did whenever I went out in Venice: so that it was considerably past midnight when I reached my door.
While the cause of the tangling is clear -- everyone seems to get lost in Venice -- the sentence avoids the inelegant prepositional phrase I have, until now, felt compelled to deploy.

There. I've made my decision. From now on, I will couple "inextricably" with a choice adjective and put my fears to rest. Now if I could only settle on the right pronunciation of the word -- stress on the "ex" or the "tric" ? -- I'll be good to go.
  • Current Music
    Rhapsodie: Allegro risoluto - Gerhard Oppitz - Johannes Brahms

Post Script

I suppose it's time to come out of the closet. The other day, as Laura and I were having a delightful conversation about Marxist theories of pedagogy and blogging, I admitted to her that I'm starting to see a resemblance between my own prose and -- [insert immodesty alert here] -- that of Henry James.

That's a strange thing for several reasons. First, I haven't read that much Henry James. Second, I did everything in my power to shape my UC Berkeley Ph.D. exam committee so that I wouldn't have to talk about James, picking Carolyn Porter to supervise my third field so that she wouldn't be selected to handle one of my historical fields. Third, I have more than once referred to complex interpersonal situations as "Henry James-esque" as a way of indicating that they had become too turned-in-on-themselves, too precious. Fourth, my mother was fond of repeating her mother's assessment of James during my impressionable years, noting that his brother William was a far better writer.

I've long considered William James one of the greatest inspirations for both my thinking and writing. What I'm realizing of late, however, is that the part of me that writes things like obsessive-compulsive blog entries is ineluctably drawn to the indirectness of his brother. It's a wonder I ever get laid.
  • Current Music
    We Want More - Bangs - Call + Response

Second Thoughts

Despite my bold declaration earlier this morning that I would use "inextricably" with the freedom of the bricoleur, I couldn't resist the urge to consult the OED's exemplary quotations:
1598 DRAYTON Rosamond to K. Henry Annot., Vaults arched and walled with brick and stone, almost inextricably wound one within another. 1692 RAY Dissol. World 134 The Sun may be so inextricably inveloped by the maculæ, that he may quite lose his light. 1725 POPE Odyss. VIII. 342 Th' intangling snares deny (Inextricably firm) the pow'r to fly. 1830 D'ISRAELI Chas. I, III. xii. 268 Politics was now inextricably connected with religion. 1887 J. S. BANKS Man. Chr. Doctr. II. iii. 178 In the Roman teaching..truth and error are subtly and inextricably interwoven.
As you can see, every one demonstrates the caution that has been my wont, either fleshing out the implicit metaphor or providing clarification of an ablative nature.

So I'm torn now. Worse still, I'm wondering whether the term "inelegant prepositional phrase" in my previous entry on the subject is technically incorrect when applied to the coupling of "inextricably" and "by" or "with." Or is it my use of the term "ablative" this time wrong that betrays my having gone grammatically soft? Please help me: I'm drowning in doubt!
  • Current Music
    Upsetters / Peace (Version) - Lee Perry - Chapter 2 Of Words


Is this proof that the resistance to American global domination is proceeding in a register that the Department of Homeland Security hadn't anticipated?:

No, it's not an accident:

``I hate to blame the importer. He probably did not know what he was getting. He brings them in 40-foot containers. But whoever made it knew exactly what they were making,'' Pedron said.

Pedron said Lisy did not notice the small plastic figurines until two people complained, but there is no mistaking what the toys represent: At the bottom of each is the product number 9011.

``When we found out what happened, we recalled them immediately,'' said Pedron, who said the toys do not reflect the company's view. ``I was offended by them.''
Even I'm offended and that's saying a lot. Still, I'm impressed with the extent of the subversion. 14,000 bags of candy is a lot.
  • Current Music
    Nr. 12 - Rondeau. Allegretto. - Mozart: KIavierkonzerte Nos. 20 & 12. Rudolf Serkin

Knowing, Doing

After months of mental stumbling, I'm starting to feel everything fall into place in a way it hasn't for a long time. That's welcome news. Better still, I'm easing into a groove in other areas as well. For whatever reason, I'm managing to live in the moment, instead of comparing the present with the past or anticipating how it will measure up with the future. The here-and-now focus I bring to bear on doing the dishes -- don't laugh -- is all of a sudden proving transportable to other tasks of a less mundane nature. It's nice to be able to put my finger on it, whether you take that idiom literally or metaphorically. But can it really be "zen" if I'm having that much fun?
  • Current Music
    So Cold - Rocket From The Tombs - The Day the Earth Met the... Rocket From the Tombs