Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Wordsmith Revisited: Names and Pictures Mean Something

Once again,  I found myself paralyzed before the computer because there were too many thoughts competing to be written down. So, I apologize for this blog surfacing so late in the day. I just wish, when I read a book that I enjoy, I could maneuver words well enough to express the spirit of those books. And "spirit" is exactly what I mean about The Wordsmith, the Kid and the Electrolux by Clifford Leigh. You might figure that out sooner than I did if you read the book. I was a little dense.

The entire time that I was reading this unusual book, I was struck by two elements in particular: Mr. Leigh's choice of words--especially names--and all the pictures. Therefore, I've decided to focus on these devices.

Ah, what's in a name? Depends. Sometimes names are chosen for heritage, for their sound, and sometimes for their meaning. All three are true in The Wordsmith. At times I was reminded of the fun names in Charles Dickens' books. For example, when Corey has to go to the dentist, Dr. Worell K. Riesen. His nurse has the outstanding name of Pedifoot. Perfectly upside-down for a dentist's assistant. At first I thought the doctor's name was just fuuny, until I said it out loud. Then I heard whirl (like a drill) and caries. 7th graders, fresh from Health classes, will probably pick up on that faster than I did. (Aside: the whole dentist scene reminded me of Dickens for more than the names. It is so funny, very cleverly written. The descriptions of the characters bring them and the situation to clarity in all their ridiculousness, especially the germaphobic, overstuffed, pompous Dr. Riesen. Ah! Just aas I was writing this I realized his name is also a type of candy--more irony?).

For those who are as dense as I am, a character named Ben helps point the way. Corey meets Ben and Benjamin Endben inside The Land Under The Tree, and Ben is quick to snicker at names, even his own. He made me realize the meaning behind Fern and Kosmo Kreechur. Funny names, ridiculous people, but symbolic of much more. See, these two enter the shop of the Wordsmith while Corey, Ben and Benjamin are there. Corey is duly impressed as he watches the Wordsmith's words create something living from nothingness (sound familiar?). The Kreechurs enter the shop and never even see the Wordsmith, yet they are enamored by the creation. Fern is a nature-lover who gives homage to Mother Nature for her own creation while Kosmo calculates (scientifically, of course) that this living creation is 365 days old. To these two, the creature, or creation, was greater than the creator. In fact, they don't even see the creator when He's right in front of them. Sound like anyone you know or have heard about in the real world?

A game filled with children provides all kinds of creativity with names--the game that everyone in New Dragenstoy ( a fun name in itself) played or followed--Darbol. The game itself made me think of the Spanish word for tree--arbol. And, after all, this place is under The Tree. The game was invented by the founder of this city, Coyle Dragenstoy. Think about it. It isn't a nice game, and it doesn't encourage godly behavior. Heritage names show up here, I think, with nods to the founder: Doyle, Boyle, Hoykin, Royzin, etc. Other names have meaning. Benjamin tells Corian that his name meant "some of my right hand", and any of us who have read the Old Testament know the story of Benjamin and of his name. It fits.  I think Corian means something in another language, but I'm not sure. I know a Griffin (his last name) is a mythological beast befitting a fantasy such as this one. Then there are the names Pavo and Cigna (Latin for 'turkey' and 'swan,' repectively) and Loyal that show up later in the tale. You'll probaby notice more that I did. I am a bit dense, after all.

Wow; I haven't even started on the pictures yet, and they are essential to the novel. It is only fitting that a man who is a visual artist and an architect by trade should incorporate art and architecture so heavily into his written artwork. (Oh, and by the way, Cliff Leigh is the very apt illustrator as well as author. All the pictures you have seen--other than our logo--on the blogs for the tour are his work.) The weird trip begins when Corey finds some family picture albums, and falls into one of them,  a tree that is decorated with framed pictures of many, many people. It turns out to be an impossibly large tree. But, after all, it is Corey's family tree in a rather literal sense, covered with images of the people who are literally in his family tree. And it is  a very large tree, including all the human race (we all can trace our heritage back to Noah, after all.) In the land under The Great Tree, there  were pictures everywhere. pictures that Corey and the others could step into, become part of, become lost in. Sometimes the picture up front was a facade for what was really happening. For example, one of the pictures shows a family frozen in a family portrait, all smiles and love.Yet when the boys stepped in, they found that only the front was there, like cardboard props. The real family situation was far from the happy scene out front.

Pictures abound throughout, pictures of people, images that recall scenes from scripture, and images that remind us of ourselves and the condition of the world. Then there are some very special pictures that Benjamin carried with him and showed to anyone who would look. Near the end of the book (a tiny spoiler here), someone identifies them as "The Lambskin Pictures." They include a picture of  the kid, but I'm not going to  describe that one. Or the others. The fact is, though, that everyone who saw those pictures were somehow affected by them, and the affect depended on whether or not that person decided to accept what they saw.  For any readers familiar with the Bible, the images of the book and the images portrayed through the words will make you think about The Word and the One who spoke The Word, the one who is The Word.

So much more I could say, but I think I'll end with Clifford Leigh's own words about words, pictures, and his book:
Just one more thing on the use of  pictures: It is said, “A picture is worth a thousand words” but which words?
  As a professional artist I have learned the limitation of pictures and the absolute supremacy of the Word over images. I have exhibited pictures that I labored to express a particular meaning only to have viewers decipher wholly different interpretations from them. Words are a more specific tool to convey meaning. There fore, I opted to write a book of words describing things that no one is viewing, instead of filling a gallery with paintings of these things." (For the rest of this deep explanation about the book, check it out at "Orgins and Meanings" on his website blog.)

Once again, I urge you to find out more about the book and the Renaissance-man-author, Cliff Leigh, by visiting his website at .

Don't forget, someone who comments on the CFRB blogs (including mine) this week will win a copy of The Wordsmith, the Kid and the Electrolux. Since I'm getting this blog up so late in the day, I'm extending the deadline until noon on Monday, January 11.

Purchase The Wordsmith, the Kid, and the Electrolux at,,
Amazon, Amazon Kindle, or Barnes and Noble.

Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.


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