Monday, December 12, 2011

One Hundred Names for Love, by Diane Ackerman

Ackerman's "The Zookeeper's Wife" is a sparkling gem, the tale of a young Polish couple in the 1940s who manage a zoo and save Jews by hiding them in animal cages. When Diane Ackerman came out with the intriguingly titled "One Hundred Names for Love," I couldn't wait to crack the book's spine and again lose myself in her prose.

OHNFL recounts Ackerman's experience as caretaker after her husband suffers a major stroke. Sadly, although "The Zookeeper's Wife" rivets, this medical-recovery memoir disappointed, was riddled with cliches. Ackerman does a lot of "telling" here, presenting information and directing us toward a conclusion, instead of "showing" us and letting us form our own thoughts about the outcome.

Mike Dahlie, (esteemed teacher at Butler, and author of "A Gentleman's Guide to Graceful Living"), says that, contrary to popular notions about writing, it's not always wrong to eschew showing for telling. He wasn't, of course, referring to prose pocked with cliche. Here's a taste: "So our days together still include many frustrations, but once again revolve around much laughter and revelry with words." There's a lot of generalizations and broad, descriptive words packed into that sentence! I dug into OHNFL with high hopes, but it wasn't long before drowsiness overtook and, craving caffeine, I found myself rummaging through the kitchen junk drawer, searching for toothpicks with which to prop my eyelids open.

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