Friday, June 20, 2008


After Salman Rushdie's visit to our town, I've taken up Satanic Verses for another try. Early on, I've come across the phrase like a 'disgusted turbot', and realized that I have absolutely no idea what a turbot is. I realize that the way I've glossed it so far in life is to try to fit it into a sentence without caring about it, so in this case I would try tureen and turnip as general associations, without stopping to ask whether it makes sense. This one is a stumper. Online dictionary, please enlighten me.

It is a European flatfish, highly prized as food.

Why do I have the feeling of 'Oh, yes--of course'?

Like I was ever going to come up with this.

I still don't have any idea how a turbot looks disgusted.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I was starting a story recently one of the characters informed another that she is in “the Belvedere”. This is the kind of thing that happens in first drafts--the characters say something and I figure out later what they mean and whether they are talking nonsense. I have no idea what “the Belvedere” might be, but what I was using it to mean was actually very precise--I pictured it to mean a kind of spacious walkway, in front of impressive old buildings, such as that area in Bath that they film in all the Jane Austen period movies that are located there. I am pretty sure as I write this that I am rather far from the mark. But rather than just look it up and change it in the story, I thought it would make a good post.

…I'd say I pretty much struck out on this one. It actually means a small roofed structure, open on one or more sides, and very often on top of another building, from which one can see a beautiful view. (Bel--beautiful, and vedere--to see: elementary, my dear Watson.) The only possible excuse I have is that there are some very famous Belvederes, notably the villa and court at the Vatican, which has a famous district of the same name around it. There are actually a lot of grand buildings and forts, etc. that have grabbed the name of Belvedere, obviously to imply status of some sort. But none of them are really quite what I was thinking of. Perhaps I’ll keep it though—it may allude to a fashionable district without my having to spell it out in detail right away.