On Description

A Cat Egg
Where did that egg come from? What egg? Why are you sitting on an egg? What egg? Cats are not supposed to sit on eggs. You see eggs? I see nine eggs in the carton. I see nine missing eggs in the carton. Where are the missing eggs? “The future is in eggs,” Eugene Ionesco said, his name a perfect description of an egg. That does not even begin to describe this situation. Do you want to say situation, or predicament? A cat egg is like a mare’s nest. Let’s blow this joint before someone asks what makes a cat purr.

Embedded in most descriptions is a prescription, instructions for viewing, boundaries stipulated and promoted. What might look at first glance objective enough turns around and around on an axis of theory.

Qualifications: from a distance; in the waning light of a neon-like moon; on a particularly hot, steamy day, out of season. Adjectives and adverbs cloud the way. References.

How do we describe description, the process we use to describe, carry across? And why bother? Why describe something others are free to experience for themselves?In any review, isn’t there an implicit recommendation based on a prescription of what is being described, how it ought to have been done, or at least how otherwise it might have been carried out?

A description of a painting, a Rothko: What is blue, size, warp; from what distance, in what light? Does our description of the Rothko change if others come into the room? The paintings are on the move, constantly changing, even as the museum makes every effort to still them. Description is a distillation of a sensory happening. McLuhan advised touch is the most involving of the five senses. When we paint, we use all five senses at once: paint odors; the brush splash sounds as we touch bristles to canvas. We take a break for lunch and taste oil in our bread. But are all descriptions sensory? What happens when we describe a process, an idea. Must description use words? What does a cat’s purr describe? Can we describe a cat’s purr in a painting?

Easter Eggs 2014
Egg Culture

We come, then, naturally enough, to the egg. We are reminded of Duchamp, his hidden object, if it is an object, which gets us nowhere. We need to get inside the egg for a full description, but once we crack the egg open, it’s not the same egg. We decorate our description.

It’s easy enough to say that descriptive writing is language that appeals to one or more of the five senses. But words can’t capture experience. Where is the description that activates our taste buds, such that we taste the bread and wine even as our fast continues? Is all description vicarious? We write down, distil, drop away. Description is at the distal end of experience.


  1. Dan Hennessy says:

    Way too sophisticated for me . I needed a few more egg-samples , perhaps .

    1. Joe Linker says:

      How do you like your eggs? When I was a kid, I used to like to say sunny-side-up, just because I liked the sound of the phrase. Happy eggs. Now I prefer hard boiled. But how do you go from hard boiled egg to hard boiled noir? Eh, eggja. That’s how.

  2. bristlehound says:

    Important questions here Joe. A bit like describing things in a shade of colour.
    Now, when you say an egg is no longer the same egg once it is broken, it needs to be addressed and understood whether it was an egg to begin with.
    If it is an egg then that’s what it is. If it is a broken egg then that’s what that is.But it seems a bit un-likely that it began as an egg and finished as an egg although a cracking occurred in the interim.
    Should ‘an egg’ be ‘a egg’? Like when a tree is referred to.
    It’s all very confusing and I think I will try and draw ‘a egg’ now.B

    1. Joe Linker says:

      Yes, good points. Egg on my face with this one? An egg is an egg is an egg is an egg. Army mornings, the cooks made coffee like this: pour a 1 pound can of coffee into a 5 gallon pot of boiling water. Turn the heat down and let the grounds settle to the bottom. Some cooks liked to drop a few pinches of salt in. Ladle coffee off the top. Meanwhile, crack several dozen eggs and stir in a giant bowl and pour on a grill and fry and turn and scramble and spatula off a cup to a plate. … an egg, not a egg. Over 40 eggs used in this post with comments, so far, by the way.

      1. bristlehound says:

        I love the way you think – there was I grounded in an a egg or an an egg and you have cooked breakfast.
        Does this mean that ‘A Russian Doll ‘ becomes ‘An Russian Doll’ because is exists inside as it does out?
        Any tomatoes with that?B

        1. Joe Linker says:

          Ah, nesting dolls, climb inside one another. And cracked egg fractals?

          1. bristlehound says:

            Like this conversation, there seems no end to the possibilities of this egg business. When is a fractal not – ( a fractal)?B

            1. Joe Linker says:

              Eggs a messy business. The topic was description. I was thinking how to describe an egg. What would you compare an egg to? An egg is like a prime number.

              1. bristlehound says:

                Now I can rest, thanks Joe.B

  3. Which came first? A short animation http://vimeo.com/92451475
    Done by Tash on lazy Easter Sunday.
    And here’s my ‘eggxercise’ poem from long ago:

    I trace its curve,
    can’t quite close my fingers
    round the eclipse.
    Cool in my palm,
    I turn it a little, and feel
    its centre shift.
    My nail snags a ripple
    on the calcareous shell,
    I tap the apex, as
    one sends a signal
    to another space.
    Placed on the flat
    it rolls a wobbly loop
    and comes to rest
    on its shadow.
    Its brown shine
    reveals a hairline crack
    to the past and future
    hidden in its fold.


    1. Joe Linker says:

      That’s it! Wonderful, imagistic poem of narrative descriptive experience of an egg. Thanks, Ashen. And thanks for the link to Pandahorse videos. Also made my way over to their blog and watched the short video on the
      egg and the tree.

  4. Dan Hennessy says:

    I don’t egg-actly know how ( but my words can’t capture the egg-sperience!) cats can speak —- an egg-aggeration , I egg-spect . And a mare’s nest ? Noir ? Hard-boiled deteggtives ? You’re a good egg , anyway , with integgritty . I like my eggs scrambled , anyway , with a grain of salt .

    1. Joe Linker says:

      Scamble and Cramble – two new characters in noir detective series. I’ve think you’ve just suggested names for my cats (the unreal ones, the cats who spake). Everything is metaphor. It’s like this…. Working now on “On Narration.” Will try to leave the cats and eggs out of the scramble. Do you know you used 8 eggs in that comment? I hope Ada wasn’t planning on baking a cake. You better go to the store and get some more eggs.

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