Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lucid in the Sky

Lucille the cat was always clear: no one, not even me, her trusted tin-opener, was ever going to touch her tummy. If you strayed too close, out would come those diamond-sharp claws and take that! And that and that and that! Dear little Lucille never learnt the difference between overkill and making a point but who could blame her for being being transparent? Point is, she was always admirably clear in her catty communication. And before you start thinking that she was some bitch trollcat from hell, let me assure you that she was really a rather placid old puss who lived to a golden age and purred her wee chops off whenever she got what she wanted: a tin full of “Whiskas”.

Shy Lucille never lived up to her crabby namesake, Lucy van Pelt, from the Peanuts strip by Charles Schultz[1]. Once upon another time I played Lucy in the musical, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Yes, dear Reader, nipping my dream of budding into a ballerina (see last week’s episode) I turned into a thespian and roamed the repertory theatres of New Zealand. My not-so brilliant career was shortlived yet loads of fun and led to a nice collection of newspaper clippings. One such is a publicity shot for Lucy captioned “She’s no singer”. The piccy shows me posed, arm aloft, gob open like Brünnhilde--broad of The Ring--but the words say that I’m not warbling Wagner, just catching a ball. Which is clearly the cue for the lucid Miss Ball, whose ditsy facial expressions were such a loony part of her TV show “I heart Lucy”.

But I digress (well, not really). What’s inspired this week’s episode has less to do with this giddy trio of Lucilles than one sentence in the introduction of The Economist Style Guide. “Do your best to be lucid”, it says and goes on to quote Stendhal, “I see but one rule: to be clear”. I couldn’t agree more.

Yes I know, The Economist Style Guide needs no boost from me, even in our economic climate, but if you happen to be looking for a guide to writing that actually practices what it teaches[2], I’d say unto thee, choose this one. Jane Steinberg explains why on “Rare is the style guide that a person--even a word person--would want to read cover to cover. But The Economist Style Guide, designed, as the book says, to promote good writing, is so witty and rigorous as to be irresistible.” I couldn’t resist it and leave you now with an irresistible example of psychodelic lucidity. Fly high, land safely and see you next week!

[1] In keeping with Lucy van Pelt's habit of demanding 5¢ for her psychiatric help, this week’s la-la-la Lucy Poll demands that you tick the sum you’d pay in £sd (sterling) for this episode.
[2] Have a look at this brief lesson on text revision. First one to spot the RAW (“Read And Weep”) mistake wins the Blagger’s first RAW Award. I invite you to use Comments to inquire about your prize and/or to share your own examples of editorial hubris. We live to learn, yes even the Blagger.

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