Among the many barbs that Humbert Humbert lobs at Lolita’s poor, doomed mother, Charlotte Haze, is that she is “large.” Sure, his gaze upon this woman, who has unfortunately reached the same decrepit age that I am now, is never kind. To him, she is dull-witted, her French is horrendous, she is simple and slovenly. But above all, she is that most unfeminine of qualities: the opposite of small. Humbert is not alone in prizing a woman for being of diminutive stature, although Humbert is a terrible example, since we all know what his deal is, one need not venture far from Nabokov’s masterpiece to find male narrators who wax rhapsodic over women with tiny hands, delicate feet, and small bodies that fit into to crooks of their arms. If you, like me, are a woman of formidable mien (I topped out around six feet tall at the age of twelve), chances are that you long ago abandoned hope that the day would come when you would find a man glowing upon the page about his romantic interest, a heroine who can fit into your clothes.
Samuel L. Jackson is the highest grossing actor of all time. I know, I was surprised too. According to the Guinness Book of World Records he has appeared in more than 100 films, that have in total grossed over 7.42 billion. So, I started an investigation —no this was not a form of procrastination to distract myself from writing, I swear. Over the course of two weeks, I watched and re-watched as many films starring Sam L. as I could, in the hopes of understanding what makes his films such a success. Most compelling of his performances, the thread that united his roles, was his voice. Perhaps his success lies, not in what he says, but how he says it.
“Mainly, I wanted to avoid talking down to an audience of new readers. My teaching experience had convinced me that as long as the writing was concrete, as long as sentences were sharply honed, as long as ideas were connected clearly, as long as the pacing had some momentum–in other words, as long as the writing adhered to certain well-known standards for good writing across the board–new readers could respond to it.”