Funny, not-funny


Recently I had this email exchange with an editor who was going through a story I wrote.  Overall the edits he suggested were great, and I’m happy with the way the story ended up.  But at one point he mentioned that the narrator (an adolescent boy) describes another character’s “wall-eye.”  He wrote:

Character can’t really have a wall-eye.  Is walleyed.

I wrote back:

I know that.  But he doesn’t.  And wall-eye is funnier than walleye.

A strange argument to make, and strange to think that I believed it mattered.  But 1) I worried that a lot of people just aren’t used to seeing the word walleyed and would hear it wrong in their heads as the read the line, and b) the hyphen really does make it funnier.  And a little meaner, somehow.

232323232fp5325;>nu=32-8>83->899>-7;232856893<;72ot1lsiA strange note…  I went looking for an image on Google for “wall eyed” (or wall-eyed).  At the top of the results, Google had helpfully broken out some of the top results into categories.  Along with dog, fish, people, and cat, one of the categories was “Kate Moss.”

(Still miss you, Sophie.  You were a great dog.)

About the author

Tom Howard

Tom Howard is the author of Fierce Pretty Things (Indiana University Press, 2019).

He received his MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Fierce Pretty Things won the 2018 Blue Light Books Fiction Prize, and his individual stories have won the Ninth Letter Literary Award in Fiction, the Indiana Review Fiction Prize, the Robert and Adele Schiff Award for Fiction, the Carve Magazine Prose & Poetry Contest, the Tobias Wolff Award in Fiction, the Innovative Short Fiction Prize, the Willow Springs Ficiton Prize, the Rash Award in Fiction, and the Robert J. DeMott Award for Short Prose.

He lives with his wife in Arlington, Virginia.

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By Tom Howard


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