Blog of Pulitzer Prize Nominated Author, Jory Sherman. Get the latest information on his books, appearances and his candid reflections on writing.

Monday, July 18, 2005


I'm amazed at the athletic ability of human eyes in the hands of so many contemporary writers. Eyes may soon have to don capes and sport a logo on the front of their T-shirts, such as, perhaps, the letters SE embroidered within a golden triangle. The SE would stand for SUPER EYES.

I first noticed the athleticism of eyes during the first blush of the romance novel bloom when publishers were snapping up writers so fast Rosemary Rogers' hair stood on end. In these novels, we had such scenes as this one: "In her upstairs bedroom, he took her in his arms and clasped her tight. Her eyes went over his shoulder, out the window and across the lawn into the distant trees."

In others, there were such phrases as: "Her eyes followed him across the dance floor, lingered on his lithe body, caressed each muscle that rippled under his tight trousers."

There were optical orbs that performed such feats as this one: "He undressed her with his eyes."

Lately, the eyes in our literature must be taking steroids because they are appearing in the novels of writers I much admire. I read: "His eyes traveled around the room." And, "his eyes flew to the door."

These are writers whose literary gifts are admirable, writers who know and love the English language. Yet, they have committed an odd kind of pathetic fallacy, one that does not attribute speech and thought to animals or inanimate objects, but endows eyes with superb athletic ability, eyes that can "soar to the sky," or that have "roamed over every item in the briefcase."

And, we are all familiar with the phrase "every eye was glued on her and she stepped to the footlights."

Well, eyes can't do any of these things. They can't roam, travel outside their sockets, or fly or soar or wend their way into female hearts.

The late Francis Fugate, a very perceptive writer who lived in El Paso, first drew my attention to "acrobatic eyes," with a piece he wrote for The Roundup, the official magazine of Western Writers of America, years ago. Since then, I've become very sensitive to what eyes can do in literature. Before, such eyeball activity was limited to comic books and cartoons. Eyes could elongate, grow larger than a head, spin colored spirals, and a host of other Plastic Man-like contortions.

So, I try not to make my characters employ athletic eyes. Instead, my fictional characters tend to gaze, to glance, and, well, just to see. My eyes are incapable of leaving their sockets in order to glide across expansive lawns, caress bodies, or become glued to anything, animate or inanimate.

Eyes can see, they can look, they can gaze, they can scan. They can do a great many things as long as they remain in their sockets.

Beware of athletic eyes. They can make your writing look as ridiculous as Jim Carrey's eyes in "The Mask."

Now, if you're drawing animated cartoons…hey, go for it.