Mine are in my sockets. Not sure where yours are.

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If we have two of them, and unless our eyeballs have been popped out of our heads, there’s only one place on our body they can possibly be. I see this construction in writing more than you might imagine I do:

My eyes rolled in their sockets.


Yes. Well. As opposed to rolling in the mud? Rolling in their graves? Rocking and rolling all night long? You see my point. Admittedly, there are instances of eyeballs rolling around outside of sockets in pop culture. The most famous of these eyeballs (I think) is in Kill Bill Volume 2, in which Uma Thurman pops out Daryl Hannah’s remaining eyeball and it spends some time rolling around on the dirty carpet in the old trailer where the showdown takes place.

But that’s the exception. Most eyeballs are in sockets, at least in literature.

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Far be it from me to tell anyone who to read or not read, and I never judge anyone’s reading choices. We all have our tastes, and the beauty of the world is that we all love a whole lot of different stuff. For me, and I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, it’s important to read books that show me how not to write something. As writers and editors, we don’t just read the “good” stuff. I think we’re limiting ourselves if we do that. I believe it’s important to study all kinds of writing, good and bad, to teach us something about how writing works.

I was challenged by an acquaintance once who told me that I’d never read South African literature until I’d read Wilbur Smith.

“I’ve read 130 South African books,” I told him. “So, I’m pretty sure I have read South African literature.”

“Nope. Not until you’ve read Wilbur Smith.”

Feh. I couldn’t give a continental crap what anyone thinks of my reading habits, but I thought I’d give ol’ WS a go so I could shut this guy up. Everyone seems to read Wilbur Smith. Stephen King regularly blurbs his front covers, so I figured it couldn’t be all bad, right?

I took one out of the library. I have no idea what it was called and I don’t remember the plot. It had guns and malaria in it; I’m certain of that. Here’s what stood out for me (among other gems):

... the nipples of her breasts...

I had to stop right there and read that to my entire extended family at the reunion where I was reading this book. The responses were swift and satisfying.

“Oh! Not the nipples of her elbows?” a cousin asked me. “The nipples of her kneecaps?”

I don’t know who edits Wilbur Smith, but they must have had contact with some Federation species with nipples for elbows, or perhaps had encountered Francisco Scaramanga’s third nipple in The Man With the Golden Gun. There can be no other explanation for Mr. Smith telling us that the nipples he’s writing about are the nipples of her breasts. Because how would we have known?!

Sockets? We can leave them out. Nipples? Best left just as they are with no need to explain where they appear on the human body.

Kimmy BeachComment