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Structural Integrity of a Literary Composition

Last Thursday, I met up with a friend for a movie and a bite to eat. We chose to see The Age of Adaline, starring Blake Lively (Adaline Bowmann) and Michiel Huisman (Ellis Jones). It’s the story of Adaline, who mysteriously remains frozen in time at the age of 29, even though in actual years, she is over 100. For many of us it might seem like a dream come true. But for Adaline it means she is a “freak,” running from alphabet soup agencies and having a daughter that looks as old as a grandmother.

Rewind with me, if you will, to when I was schlepping poetry around to literary journals. I’d received my share of rejection slips, even several complete with coffee rings. One arrived in my post wrinkled, both envelope and letter, smelling earthy – my best guess for that one was, before it was mailed, it somehow ended up underneath a plant that had been over-watered. But my all time, hands down favourite was the editor who had drawn a red circle around three lines of text and scrawled in the right hand margin, “Compromises the structural integrity of the poem.”

This particular rejection slip amused me so much, I regaled my tale at parties and other social gatherings to anyone who would listen. I think I found it so funny because, while I can understand the concept of comprising the structural integrity of a building, a bridge or an engine, it seemed a bit fantastic to apply said concept to a literary composition.

Back to last Thursday. Both of us liked the movie and found it somewhat enjoyable; not great just okay. As we were discussing how it could have been a much better film with some simple writing tweaks, that’s when the ghost of the structural integrity editor came back to haunt me. Not to give too much of the action away, the subplot of how William Jones (Harrison Ford) and Adaline met many years ago and what they mean to one another in the present, could have been less creepy if the storyline had been judiciously structured a little differently.

I don’t mind admitting I’m wrong – no matter how many years behind schedule. I concede; pieces of literary writing do indeed have structures that can be compromised.

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