Reading and Discussing T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land

I’ve never read all of Eliot’s The Waste Land, partly because the recondite references and foreign language passages dissuaded me, but James Parker’s recent Atlantic write-up–or more accurately, guide– has inspired me to finally complete it. I’m going to use this thread to keep notes and process the poem.

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Vocabulary Thread

When we were in school, teachers gave us vocabulary words to learn and memorize, but my children don’t have the same experience. To me, this is an oversight that I wanted to rectify. In this thread, I’m going to describe this process, which has brought to light observations that I wouldn’t mind discussing or at least seems worthy to record. Think: a journal of teaching my children vocabulary.

Thread: Tracking and Analyzing Cliched Language

Mitchell and I have been discussing to what degree one should avoid the use of cliches in writing. I find that this discussion seeps into my consciousness when I’m writing, making me more aware of cliches, or possible cliches, in my writing. Additionally, sometimes when I’m in the process of writing, I write what I think might be a cliche, and I’m curious to know Mitchell’s opinion–on whether it’s a cliche and the alternate he would use instead. But I usually forget these specific examples. This thread will be a for these examples, as well as to discuss this topic more generally. By the way, I thought of this topic precisely because I was in the process of writing a sentence that I thought was cliched. Here’s the sentence: “Her judgment may not be as rock solid as she thought.” Is “rock solid” a cliche? I thought it might be so I changed it to “reliable.” But then I thought: Is “reliable” a significantly better word choice–i.e., does it significantly improve the writing? What say, you Mitchell? (Also, I think one of the obstacles in this discussion is the definition of cliche–or more specifically, properly recognizing and labeling a cliche. I hope we can discuss that topic here, too.)