A Good Word: Propulsive

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Those of us that love writing and/or reading have words we hate. It’s hard not to and it’s understandable — every boat has some bilge water.

My damp, sick, tiny, coughing weasel of a word these days is “curate.”  It’s a little grand a term for my taste, unless of course you pay the bills working in museums or the like.

Oh, you curated an Apple Music playlist?  Did you now? How lovely.  

So, that’s one that causes dismissive hisses and grunts.  But there are words, many, many, words, that are excellent to read, say and type.

Today the one that’s been sliding to and fro in my mind is “propulsive.”

I said it last night to my roommate. She just spent two weeks on beaches in Trinidad and Tobago, sipping Carib beer and reading a novel.  We were having a chat over coffee about it. I mentioned I just finished the excellent Toni Morrison novel “Sula,” from 1973,  one of hers that I had not read.

What I like about Morrison’s work is that  you can spin the book  around and it’s a lot of different things. There’s  slashing prose describing racism in Ohio, a “normal” place to American readers. “Sula” also has some sumptuously written sex scenes, where you can feel love amid the sweat glistening on bodies. Gorgeous stuff.

But I chose “propulsive” because Morrison moves the narrative along, on a very human scale. The chapters are divided into years, yes, so that’s a tip, but Morrison does a great job aging the both the title character and her friend Nel.

Each time you pick up with them, you can sense changes, sometimes in actions and dialogue seasoned with wisdom and sometimes they are doing what they’ve always done.

Wonderful read, if you haven’t yet got to it, and still wonderful if you have.



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