zeugma and a book review

Etymology: modern Latin, <Greek zeugma a yoking, <zeugmunai to yoke, related to zugon

A figure by which a single word is made to refer to two or more words in the sentence; esp. when properly applying in sense to only one of them, or applying to them in different senses; but formerly more widely, including, e.g., the use of the same predicate, without repetition, with two or more subjects; also sometimes applied to cases of irregular construction, in which the single word agrees grammatically with only one of the other words to which it refers (more properly called syllepsis n.).

1589 G. Puttenham Arte Eng. Poesie iii. xii. 136 But if it be to mo clauses then one, that some such word be supplied to perfit the congruitie or sence of them all, it is by the figure (Zeugma) we call him the (single supplie)..: as to say. Fellowes and friends and kinne forsooke me quite.

from the OED

I keep running across this word in J. R. Mason’s The English Hymn: A Critical and Historical Study. If I can just remember that it’s Greek for “yoking” I will be able to retain the meaning in my brain. Otherwise I guess I’ll just look it up when I forget.

My piano trio read entirely through the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s trio in A minor for the first time.  It is quite a piece. While we were practicing the organ guy showed up and fixed the pedal board. I was then able to practice organ after the piano trio rehearsal.

I came home and finished reading Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory. Houellebecq uses his story to make delicious irony. He, himself, is a character in it. The main character, Jed Martin, is an artist.

I like the way Houellebecq pushes this novel and the other novel of his I have read The Elementary Particles a little bit into the future. Thus he tells the entire life of Martin including his death. Martin takes an idea for making art and explores it, then discard it as an approach. He does this three times in the book.

The first period of his imaginary work uses Michelin maps. He becomes fascinated with the way they look. He photographs them and makes them his art. He is approached by the company and it is a very successful venture for both them and him.

Throughout this book, Houellebecq loves to mix up commercial and aesthetic ideas critiquing both but also blithely accepting them as the environment art is now made in.

The second period is one of painting portraits. Martin begins painting portraits of people doing their work, ordinary people at first. Then he begins painting famous people in poses that make a point. One of these paintings is of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates planning the future of technology.

These paintings are enormously successful and make Martin a wealthy artist.

He stops doing art for years.

His final period involves making intricate movies. Over a long period he films the greenery around his mansion. Then he films inanimate objects like cell phones and computers. Finally as an old man he puts photographs of the people he has known (people we recognize from the story in the book) on his yard and films them for long periods as they age.

Then he hires a software engineer to design a Photoshop like software that will enable to make layers in his videos.

The result is a video of photographs and tech pieces decaying into greenery.

There are other parts of the story including a little detour into a murder mystery complete with many chapters of getting to know the detectives which seems to mimic Simenon. Gratuitous nihilistic sex prevalent in his other novels is missing. But there are instances of violence. The murder itself is macabre.

Houellebecq pulls it all off. It makes me want to try one of his other novels. Or hope that he writes another one and it gets translated into English (These books are all written in French).


In Belarus, Teddy Bears Defy Leader, Lukashenko – NYTimes.com


Arpaio’s Fondness for Publicity May Bite Back – NYTimes.com

This man is 80 years old and seems to have had a very interesting life. But I think his stances on immigration and the birth certificate nonsense is deplorable.


For God, Texas and Golf – NYTimes.com

I usually read Gail Collins. She can be witty. I liked this comment:

It’s so ironic, people. The national electorate is totally turned off by partisan standoffs. You can almost hear the public imploring, will you guys please just make some back-room deals? And, at that same moment, the Republican candidates are being pushed into being more and more intractable.


Spain arrests three suspected of plotting terror attack | World news | guardian.co.uk

Spain like most of the Western world with the exception of the USA treats terrorism as criminal activity. That’s always made more sense to me than some sort of abstract nebulous “war.”


Mitt Romney’s Search for Simple Answers – NYTimes.com

Article by Jared Diamond author of Guns, Germs and Steel critiquing Romney’s use of his work.


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