Hard Times, Dear Reader, Hard Times

Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press. Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust. Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband who is a law professor. Where the Bones Are Buried, the fifth book in the series, is in bookstores now . You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at http://www.jeannematthews.com

The Greek poets always began their poems with an invocation to their particular muse, a metaphysical force that sparked creativity.  The invocation served as both a prologue to their story and a prayer for artistic inspiration.  Homer’s Odyssey begins, “Sing to me of the man [Odysseus], Muse.”

My muse didn’t do much singing in 2017.  She acts as if she’s been mugged – grabbed, groped, gobsmacked and demoralized.  The daily dose of toxic politics and indecent exposures has sapped her energy and bruised her spirit.  She has retreated into a dark bunker, traumatized by current events and shaken by dread.  What once would have been regarded as fiction has turned into reality.  What used to be acknowledged fact has been re-labeled fiction.  The imagination boggles.  The muse cringes.

There are writers whose muses perform like galley slaves, taking up the oars and heaving-ho the instant the writer takes pen in hand.  My muse isn’t the biddable type.  She’s moody, distracted by the ominous twittering of the zeitgeist, frightened by those worrisome buttons that portend the destruction of the planet.  It’s been nigh on impossible to coax her out of her funk.  And then along comes Lelia telling me it’s once again time to write something “amusing” or at least mildly informative for her blog.

Muse-less and struggling to dream up a fresh topic, I happened upon a quote from Paul Harvey.  “In times likes these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these.”  It gave me a bit of solace and started me thinking about diacopes.  A diacope (pronounced die-ACK-oh-pee) is a rhetorical device in which a word or phrase is interrupted and then repeated.  The diacope has made for some of the most memorable lines in literature and the cinema:

“A horse!  A horse!  My kingdom for a horse!”

“To be or not to be.”

“Run, Toto, run!”

“Bond, James Bond.”

“Crisis?  What crisis?”

While I was chasing down diacopes, which are too numerous to count, I bumped into epanalepsis.  There is no plural for the word epanalepsis.  It is uncountable, although examples are numerous.  An epanalepsis is a figure of speech in which the beginning of the sentence is repeated at the end, with a string of words intervening.  The Paul Harvey quote is both a diacope and an epanalepsis.

Phil Leotardo, a gangster on The Sopranos, delivered a chilling epanalepsis:  “Next time there won’t be a next time.”  And JFK got off another disturbing one:  “Mankind must put an end to war – or war will put an end to mankind.”

Stop it!  The epanalepsis is scaring the muse.  Or was it the diacope?  Button, button, who’s got the button?

This faintheartedness is embarrassing.  She’s simply got to get a grip, pull up her socks and stiffen her upper lip.  Perhaps she’ll take heart if I introduce her to the epizeuxis.  Winston Churchill was the past master of the epizeuxis:  “Never give in – never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour or good sense.  Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

How’s that for grit and determination and spine-tingling encouragement?

And Winston wasn’t done:  “You ask what is our aim?  I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be.”

If an epizeuxis like that doesn’t rouse the muse out of her bunker, nothing will.

Creative inspiration faced hard times last year, dear reader, hard times indeed.  But it’s a brave New Year.  I can sense the muse beginning to get back some of her mojo.  When she emerges into the sunlight and sings in my ear again, she’ll have acquired a few new word tricks.

11 thoughts on “Hard Times, Dear Reader, Hard Times

  1. Love it, love it, love it! Oh, how I love it! I love it that your muse is sensitive to the zeitgeist, I love it that you take solace in wordplay, and I love it that you shared these wonderful words and figures of speech with us. Love it.


  2. Such great elucidation on the vagaries of language. I grew up with a mom who was both a writer and a middle school language arts teacher. We played with words at many meals. Thanks for a great start to my day.


  3. I have no idea how you manage to make topics such as this so funny, but somehow, some way, you do. Such fun to read your writing. Perhaps high praise will coax your muse out of hiding. If do, I offer it willingly.


  4. For a person battered emotionally by all of the insanities you so eloquently mention, and the unrelenting cancer I’m fighting to keep at bay (so far so good), your beautiful spirit is a gift, Jeanne. Reading this made my day today, and I love how it makes me feel. Thank you, dear writer and friend.


    • Eva, it’s lovely to hear from you and I take that “so far so good” comment as a sign — a sign that this New Year will bring us all happier, healthier and more inspirational things to think about. We miss you and John. Hope to catch up with you soon.


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