Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dotting the Eyes


Landscape with Country Dance,
Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

The picture is for Takoda, for luck.

I have never quite understood the excessive, Victorian-style, finicky replacement of "eyes" with "gaze" if some poor sod writes that a character " rolled an eye."

This is literalism gone mad.

A result, I suspect, of an innate distrust - if not contempt - for the average reader's intelligence.

The ban probably owes its genesis to SF or horror- where disembodied body parts might on occasion be literal and so the use thereof could be considered confusing.

At the same time, such critics have no problem with other figuratives ( except for cliche abundance) such as "he laid his heart at her feet."



Writers often fuss about carpel tunnel, about neck pain, or big butts.

Consider your eyes and take care of them.

My husband goes in for eye surgery this morning.

Prognosis is good and success is expected.

However, I may not be around today.
UPDATE:
Surgery went well. He's fine. I'm limp.

35 comments:

Steve G said...

Best wishes for your husband.

Carla said...

I hope the surgery goes well. Best wishes to your husband, and I'll be thinking of you both.

James Goodman said...

oh, best wishes for your husband. I hope everything goes smooth.

btw, I've tagged you with a meme.:D

jason evans said...

Good luck today, both of you.

As for the whole "eyes" literalism, I completely agree. If someone "shot his eyes to the knife drawer," we don't think he discharged his corneas from a .44 magnum.

takoda said...

Bernita, You and your husband will be in my thoughts today. I hope the surgery goes well, as well as the recovery. We do tend to take our health for granted, don't we. Your posting is a gentle reminder...

Oh, the painting. It's beautiful. Where did you find it? I've never seen it! Let's look at it closely. Bruegel is known for painting everyday scenes, particularly those of peasants. His paintings tend to show a lot of action. Many of his paintings include lots of people, but they never seem crowded.

Are the peasants enjoying life? Or are they participating in folly, dancing dangerously close to a cliff? And the man in the background, watching, who is he? You've given me much to think about this morning.

Thank you for posting for my good luck Bernita. **She types in the word verification and wipes away a tear**

Rick said...

May all go well!

Gabriele C. said...

Best wishes for your husband.

Yeah, I don't get the obsession with eyes, either. What the heck is wrong with a standard phrase, like 'eyes downcast'?

Sometimes, it's a clumsy phrase that makes for the too literal effect. 'He rolled his eyes at his daughter.' Now, that gives me an image of eye-painted marbles on the floor. :)

Bernita said...

Thank you all for your good wishes.

UPDATE:Surgery went very well, with no complications anticipated.
He's fine. I'm limp.
Cute ( and practical) thing: They put a "blind pew" above the appropriate eye.

James! I thought you were a friend!

Exactly, Jason. Even "she dropped her eyes" is verboten.

I think it may be detail from a larger painting, Takoda, from Uffizi, Florence.

Charles Gramlich said...

Surgery is so worrisome. I remember when my 17 year old son had it for a broken hand. I was in agony the whole time. I'm glad your husband's work came out fine.

Robyn said...

So glad he's fine. While you work your way back to invertebrate, have a glass of something fortifying.

I must be shallow. I've never once pictured anything literal upon reading 'his eyes travelled over her' or whatever.

James Goodman said...

glad to hear it went well. Sorry about the tag. :D

Rowan said...

I'm glad everything went well, Bernita. Good to hear.

Bernita said...

We keep obsessing on the "what ifs," Charles.

"Fortifying," that's good advice, Robyn.Not shallow - sensible - and capable of recognizing a standard device.

James, it is a compliment and thank you. It's just that I've done that meme twice now and I'm really very dull.

Thank you, Rowan. Nice to see you again.

bunnygirl said...

Yay! Best wishes to him for a quick recovery! Barring that, good post-op drugs!

raine said...

The eyes have it then. ;-)

Very glad to hear that all went well, Bernita.
Now, go take care of YOURSELF, dear lady.
(big hug).

Jon M said...

Glad to hear all went well!

On the subject of rolling eyes, if anyone complains about that shouldn't you just give them the finger?

Bernita said...

Thank you, Bunny. Maybe when the anesthetic wears off, he's stop muttering "piece of cake."

You're a Dear Girl, Raine. Thank you.
Some zinfandel, I think.

Bernita said...

Jon!
~giggling~
Thank you.

If editors want it -it gets razed to gazed. I'm just grumbling

EA Monroe said...

Good afternoon, Bernita! I'm wishing your husband the best (and you, too!). My mom recently went through her "Cadillac" surgery. Really cataract surgery, but that's what her brothers keep calling it.

Anonymous said...

Bernita, Thank goodness all went well! Recovery is equally important. Lots of rest and vitamins.

A short sidebar. I had a surgery five years ago (nothing serious), but I got shingles two months later. I was in my mid thirties at the time. I am convinced that I contracted shingles because I didn't give my body enough time to heal/rest. I immediately went back into 'mommy' mode. Just a hunch....


Glad to see you back!

Takoda

Jeff said...

I'm glad your husband's eye surgery went well. I hope both of you can rest easier now. :)

Sid Leavitt said...

Good news about the surgery. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

ORION said...

My thoughts are with you both.
Speedy recovery!

writtenwyrdd said...

I'm so glad everything went well! Wish him a speedy recovery for me. :)

Cliche imagery works well in most cases, but sometimes it sounds odd. But ever since I got gigged by my high school creative writing teacher (Hello, Denise Deffenbaugh, I know you are out there somewhere!) I cannot use the phrase "threw up his/her hands" without recalling the margin notes she left me...

Rolling eyes, thrown up hands, tossing hands in the air, saying she spat for she said, etc. So many can strike the funny bone inappropriately.

Seeley deBorn said...

Yes,, but now I worry my MS is littered with gazes. I can only do so many stares...

Glad your man is feeling fine. Go have a rest.

Scott from Oregon said...

Glad to hear your hubby's gaze surgery went well... (rolls eyes...)

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Sounds like the husband is ok. That's good. Husbands are important creatures.

Yeah, I get called on "He eyed her" or whatever usage I employ by a literalist in my crit group. God bless her, but most folks get that the eye didn't actually leave the socket...

Bernita said...

Thank you, Elizabeth, Takoda,Sid,Jeff, Pat.

Eh, Written."Threw up her hands" is a recognized expression, an idiom(?). Excessive of her.

That's the danger, Seeley. I know just what you mean.
And avoidance may lead to even more awkward constructions.

Exactly, Scott.
~snork~

"Most people get..." I firmly believe they do, SS.

Thank you all for your warm wishes.I hope the next one goes as well.

Kate Thornton said...

Good news. May all this type of news be good. Here's lookin' at you, kid...

Bernita said...

Aw, Kate...thank you!

kmfrontain said...

Glad your husband had a successful surgery, Bernita.

This eye thing in writing, the forbidden "dropped eyes" may be suffering too much ostracism. I used gaze a lot in Loved Him, because there was a lot about eye contact, or lack thereof, but there were a few occasions when I had to use eyes because nothing else would do. I'd already used gaze or attention too much. At that point, I had to trust that using the eyes would be taken as an expression, rather than a literal statement.

You know, this may be a case of the pendulum swinging far right. Too many writers overused eye expressions, and now that use is getting the big "no, that's lame and bad writing" treatment.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Karen.
You may be right. People do have a tendency to latch on an expression and beat it to death. An objection to cliched use, I understand; criticism based on literalism, I do not.

kmfrontain said...

Your post brought it smashing up to the forefront of my thoughts. It's been bothering me for some time, the dislike of eyes dropping, lowering the eyes, fixing one's eyes to another's. Why now, after all this time, is it bad to use eyes as a means of showing attention? I can only think it's being called bad because, like with omniscient voice, the concept was overused in bad writing. I don't think it's innately bad, but when everyone poops on a thing, it's like trying to say Disco was good, back in the days it wasn't.

Bernita said...

I wonder at times if objections to it have become a knee-jerk, mindless fetish, Karen.
So much in real life is conveyed by "eyes," rather than the more general, non-specific "gaze" ( to me a vague, weak word.)
We "keep an eye out", our "eyes on the road," "eyes front" etc.

Marie said...

Glad the surgery went well, Bernita.