Posts Tagged ‘vocabulary’
fastidious (adj.): hard to please
fatuity (n.): something foolish or stupid
feckless (adj.): feeble; ineffective
fettle (n.): state of health or spirits
filigree (n.): ornamental work especially of fine wire of gold, silver, or copper applied chiefly to gold and silver surfaces
firkins (n.): a small wooden vessel
foist (v.): palm off as genuine
frisson (n): a brief moment of emotional excitement
fug (n.): the stuffy atmosphere of a poorly ventilated space
fulsome (adj.): cloying; offensively excessive; insincere
fussbudget (n.): someone who fusses about insignificant things
ebullition (n.): a boiling or overflow of liquid; an outburst of feeling, passion
elide (v.): to suppress or alter by elision; to omit
elision (n.): the omission of an unstressed vowel or syllable in a verse to achieve a uniform metrical pattern
ephemeral (adj.): lasting a short period of time
epistolary (adj): written in the form of a series of letters
eponymous (adj.): of, relating to, or being the person or thing for whom or which something is named
ergo (conj.): therefore
ethereal (adj.): not composed of matter; celestial, heavenly
etiolate (v.): to grow pale; weaken
from the opening of wesley stace’s latest novel, charles jessold, considered as a murderer, the reader knows the fate of its title character: “Kensington Triple Tragedy / Composer Kills his Wife, Another, Commits Suicide / Opera Will Not Open” but one would be a fool to think they know how he gets there.
rewind 13 years. it’s 1910 and a group of England’s classical elite are gathered for a weekend retreat the day after King Edward’s funeral. composers, musicians, and critics alike mingle in a salon—drinking, gossiping, and playing piano games meant to impress one another. one newcomer, composer prodigy charles jessold, succeeds in capturing the attention of respected music critic leslie shepherd, our contemplative narrator.
the two are introduced by a mutual acquaintance and fall into an easy exchange due to the remarkable resemblance of jessold’s name to one of shepherd’s favorite historical characters: the notorious carlo gesualdo, an italian price, count, and musical composer who lived from the mid-1560s to the early 1610s. shepherd regals the circle of listeners with tales of the nobleman’s bloody revenge against his adulterous wife and her lover—a theme that finds numerous variations throughout this literary suspense novel.
in the lead up to the Great War, shepherd is vocal about his long-held dislike of german music. jessold, less antagonistic towards foreign composers, states that he’d like to restore england’s reputation with a world-class symphony.
inspiration comes when the two are away for the weekend at shepherd’s cottage. while escaping a passing rainstorm in a shed on the side of the road they meet a poor farmer who also comes to get out of the downpour. trapped and restless jessold asks the man to sing something. the farmer can think of only one tune, little musgrave, an ancient ballad about a lord who goes out hunting. the lyrics speak of a philandering wife who takes the opportunity to meet with her lover. her husband’s page walks in on the two, runs out into the woods to tell the lord, and as with the story of gesualdo, the lord returns to kill his wife and her lover; only in this version the husband kills himself as well.
the farmer’s voice and the familiar story energize both jessold and shepherd and the two immediately embark on their grand project of reviving england from its lowly musical status—but just as quickly as their elation takes hold, so does jessold begin to show his destructive nature.
reading like a post-modern meta-drama, charles jessold, considered as a murderer is an expertly-crafted, linguistic symphony of layers whose profundity increases with the turn of every page. stace, also a talented musician who performs under the pseudonym John Wesley Harding, is an accomplished composer of notes and words.
:: [dig deeper] ::
wesley stace’s website: listen to his music, watch the humorous book trailer with eugene merman, and find an upcoming event in your area
if you were inspired by this story to learn more about classical music, check out new york times’ chief music critic anthony tommasini’s choices for top greatest composers: read the first article and then continue on to the rest, collected on the arts beat blog
as a lover of the english language, this book was a breeding ground for new and underused vocabulary. there are few pages that escaped my pen—the neurotic circling of words to add to my database. here are a few that caught my eye.
puerile (adj.): juvenile
torpid (adj.): lacking in energy or vigor
inveigled (v.): to win over by wiles; entice
surfeit (n.): an overabundant supply; excess
shambolic (adj.): obviously disorganized or confused (chiefly british)
postprandial (adj.): occuring after a meal
idyll (n.): a narrative poem
tetchily (adj.): touchy, testy
inchoate (adj.): imperfectly formed; formless
ossia (n.): a musical term for an alternative passage which may be played instead of the original passage
fripperies (n.): something showy, frivolous, or nonessential
insouciance (n.): lighthearted unconcern; nonchalance
frisson (n.): a brief moment of emotional excitement
raconteur (n.): a person who excels in telling anecdotes
gamine (n.): a small playfully mischievous girl
mirth (n.): gladness or gaiety as shown by or accompanied with laughter
truculent (adj.): feeling or displaying ferocity
effusion (n.): unrestrained expression of words or feelings
redolent (adj.): exuding fragrance
puce (n.): a dark red
sibilant (adj.): having, containing, or producing the sound of or a sound resembling that of the s or the sh in sash
prurient (adj.): marked by or arousing an immoderate or unwholesome interest or desire
fulsome (adj.): characterized by abundance
panegyric (n.): a eulogistic oration or writing
passacaglia (n.): an instrumental musical composition consisting of variations usually on a ground bass in moderately slow triple time
emendation (n.): an alteration designed to correct or improve
subterfuge (n.): a deceptive device
desideratum (n.): something desired as essential
macabre (adj.): having death as a subject; dwelling on the gruesome
manacle (n.): a shackle for the hand or the wrist; something used as a restraint
manifold (v.): to mulitply; to make copies of
maudlin (adj.): drunk enough to be emotionally silly; weakly sentimental
metonymy (n.): a figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated
mellifluous (adj.): having a smooth, rich flow; filled with something that sweetens
miasma (n.): an influence or atmosphere that tends to deplete or corrupt
modal (adj.): of or relating to a structure as opposed to a substance
moue (n.): a little grimace
patois (n.): a dialect other than the standard or literary dialect.
perspicacious (adj.): of acute mental vision or discernment.
predigitation (n.): slight of hand.
precipitous (adj.): a very steep, perpendicular rise or fall.
prolix (adj.): unduly prolonged or drawn out; too long.
pedantic (adj.): of, related to, or being unimaginative; narrowly and pretentiously learned.
paucity (n.): smallness in number or quantity.
palaver (v.): to talk profusely or idly.
palaver (n.): a long conversation between people usually of different cultures or sophistications; misleading or beguiling speech.
parvenu (n.): one that has recently or suddenly risen to an unaccustomed position of wealth or power and has not yet gained the prestige, dignity, or manner associated with it.
appellation (n.) :: an identifying name or title
acicular (adj.) :: shaped like a needle
aplomb (n.) :: complete and confident composure or self-assurance
apotheosis (n.) :: elevation to divine status; the perfect example
abstruse (adj.) :: difficult to understand
anamnesis (n.) :: a recalling to mind
antediluvian (adj.) :: of or relating to the period before the flood described in the bible