Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Q & A 10 "Boundaries."
OK, maybe I'm a dolt, but I have a usage question. I see the term "blurring the boundaries between..." used often and in literary contexts. But Mr. EE points out, "Usually, boundaries aren't between things, but outside things." Not to sound like a geometry or grammar idiot, but EE's correction confuses me and makes me fear I might have been using this almost-cliche incorrectly.
Evil Editor sees where you're coming from. The boundaries of a football field are the lines surrounding the playing surface. But can they not also be said to be the lines between the playing surface and the rest of the known universe?
Imagine a football playing surface floating in outer space. Now maybe you won't see so many gutless quarterbacks running out of bounds to avoid getting hit.
But returning to the issue, the author implied that the tone of her story lay somewhere between the storytelling of Jhumpa Lahiri and Jonathan Lethem and the confessional style of Augusten Burroughs and Jennifer Belle. Why, that's like saying Hawaii lies somewhere between Australia and California.
Look at it this way. The United States represents all fiction. Seattle, Washington is the storytelling of Jonathan Lethem. Logan Airport, in Boston is the storytelling of Jhumpa Lahiri. Draw a line connecting them. We'll call that Interstate 90. Draw another line (I-40) connecting Wilmington, North Carolina to Barstow, California, those being the confessional styles of Jennifer Belle and Augusten Burroughs. Now, to claim that the tone of one's story lies somewhere between those highways is hardly meaningful. The editor will be wondering, Is her tone somewhere in the Ozarks? Or is it closer to Boise, Idaho?
Let's also keep in mind that if Evil Editor had not brought up the "boundary" issue, he never would have been able to work the word "hinterland" into his critique, costing him ten bucks.
To summarize, no you aren't a dolt for asking this question. You're a dolt for asking it here.