Saturday, January 14, 2017

Small Matters

1. When a word ends with an -ing, chances are overwhelming that the word will, under close examination, be a gerund.

2. You like gerunds on the same approximate level where you fancy vanilla ice cream, which is to say you enjoy vanilla ice cream for its flavor if a serious, intense vanilla governs its personality. For the most part, you like vanilla because it provides conveyance for berries, cherries, and, ever so much more, persimmons.

3. You like gerunds because they provide  conveyance for adverbs, a part of speech you do your best to shun, much in the manner you shun white potatoes rather than sweet potatoes or yams.

4. You don't spend much time thinking about gerunds, but when you do, you tend to visualize a gerund as a verb that has been caught stretching the way a runner stretches before a race. A gerund is a verb in motion, stretching, perhaps even yawning; it is a verb in preparation for action. A gerund may become a noun, which fascinates you because of the potential for ambiguity. A verb form that is also a noun. Wow.

5. Your literary agent is more apt to lose her composure when reading something of yours that has numerous gerunds as opposed to the times she reads work of yours that appears to be wanting in gerunds.

6. What follows has nothing to do with gerunds. If a gerund were to appear in it, you'd rewrite the sentence.

One afternoon, you were scheduled to deliver a lecture, which is not an unusual thing; you've been in a position to lecture the sort of lecture you were scheduled to deliver that afternoon for well over thirty years.

One more thing, you are often distracted by details.

Not any old detail, rather one of some quirky individuality or substance.

On the afternoon of the lecture you have in mind, you were driven to the site where the lecture was to be presented. You'd never been to this site--9 The Close, Winchester SO23 9LS England--before. The official designation of the site is The Winchester Cathedral.

Two memorable things about the occasion:

A. Nearly a year after the lecture was given, a barista in the Montecito, CA Starbucks, when she handed you your latte, asked you if you'd ever given a lecture in Winchester Cathedral. This caused you to conclude that she had been present at the time.

B. While you were absorbed in the magnificent archetectural details of Winchester Cathedral, a dear friend said, "Mind you don't step on Jane."

Most of your observations at that point were either eye level of head craned back, tourist style. With all the eye- and ceiling-level details to command your attention, you'd not looked down. Only when you did were you able to see what your friend meant.

You were about to step on Jane Austen.

Under no circumstances would you wish to do so.

Admire, yes. Step on? No.

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