• One of the travails of writing a biography of a great artist is that you find yourself returning repeatedly to certain words and phrases–especially superlatives. The nice thing about word processing is that it’s possible to search your manuscript for repeated words. The bad thing is that if you’re not careful, you become compulsive about it.
A couple of months ago I started keeping a list of words and phrases I suspected I was using too frequently in Hotter Than That: A Life of Louis Armstrong. In the past week or two I’ve been going over the first five chapters of Hotter Than That with the proverbial fine-tooth comb, looking for redundancies and personal clichés. It occurred to me (that’s one of the latter, in case you haven’t already noticed) that it might amuse you (there’s another one) to see the list:
by now/by then
from then/now on
small wonder/no wonder
to be sure
• Writing one-sentence summaries of movies is surely one of life’s more thankless tasks (though it can be done, like everything else in life, with flair). Be that as it may, I confess to having giggled when the following précis of The Station Agent popped up on my TV screen yesterday: “Two people try to befriend an anti-social dwarf.”
That seems just a bit on the bald side, don’t you think?