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Out of the Loud Hound of Darkness: A Dictionarrative

Out of the Loud Hound of Darkness: A Dictionarrative

by Karen Elizabeth Gordon
Traveling on from The Deluxe Transitive Vampire and Torn Wings and Faux Pas (chosen by the Los Angeles Times Book Review as one of the best books of 1997), Karen Elizabeth Gordon continues her wildly imaginative romp with Out of the Loud Hound of Darkness through a gothic landscape of language and her mythically Balkan world, a howling


Traveling on from The Deluxe Transitive Vampire and Torn Wings and Faux Pas (chosen by the Los Angeles Times Book Review as one of the best books of 1997), Karen Elizabeth Gordon continues her wildly imaginative romp with Out of the Loud Hound of Darkness through a gothic landscape of language and her mythically Balkan world, a howling terrain and a cast of rampageous, eerie characters. Myriad underground passages harbor mementos of horrific history, as the young dragons and au pair discover in their explorations.

Through this spellbinding narrative, with its brigands, coiffeur, Count Ghastly, moguls, alchemical queen, courtesan, contrary cartographer, and cross-dressing cowboys, Gordon illuminates the mysteries of usage, speeding the reader to expertise with such confusions as decry/descry, fatal/fateful, displace/misplace, precipitate/precipitous, and masterful/masterly. A companion lexicon, which includes anomie, farouche, quidnunc, internecine, obloquy, fatidic, and noetic, continues the tales and intrepid trek, all the while treating war, power, and celebrity cults with satirical wit and insight.

With Out of the Loud Hound of Darkness Gordon lures you into the intricacies and pleasures of language through a brooding, hilarious fabric of fiction.

Product Details

Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 7.86(h) x 1.00(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Acidulous contains acid and means slightly sour in taste or manner.

An acidulous tone had crept into both sides of the conversation, her side with balsamic asseverations and cloying evasions, his with a bite of horseradish astride a malt vinegar redolent of London fogs, fish and chips, and tabloid treacle and gossip (it was, in fact, revolting).

To complement the fig, pistachio, and finocchio caprice, the chef whipped up an acidulous splash of hazelnut oil, oxalis, and lime juice, with a pinch of powdered pfeffernuss.

Assiduous means industrious, conscientious, diligent, constant in attention and application; unceasing, persistent.

Assiduous and mindful of the most persnickety punctilio, Jacaranda filled in for the general factotum, Amaranthia, whenever she slipped off for a meeting of the Belladonna Mafiosi in the raffish capital of Blegue.


Harboring the word apt in its midst, adapt means to adjust, get used to, make suitable. (The latter meaning you will find at work for Jonquil under amiable.) Adopt means to accept, take in, take as one's own. Adept is very skilled, highly proficient, and, when used as a noun, means one possessed of and blessed with such capabilities.

Although the little vampire was adept at tying and untying knots, she decided that this particular bondage (she'd been kidnapped by brigands without a clue to her true identity--or species--thanks to the cosmetic dentistry disguising the acuity of her teeth) called for the combined arts of seduction and use of her fangs, and so the brigands, enticed into her orbit, one by one underwent this sanguinary conversion, forsaking booty for blood, jewels for jugulars, trinkets for throbbing throats.

He's an adept at this sort of tomfoolery, all right. With my own four eyes I've witnessed him upstaging the prima donna of Amplochacha at a gathering in her honor with his ambidextrous sleights of hand, rabbits up his trousers, ventriloquisms through a laryngitic diva, and a rumble with a muzzled Doberman.

Jonquil adapted to the privations and rigors of Trajikistan's inns with grinning equanimity before discovering an auberge on the road to the Fissures of Fingblat, just past the three crags known as the Saturnine Yet Oversexed Sisters, whence no comely youth ever returns.

They adopted an attitude of Sturm und Drang as protective covering while they recovered their wits and sang-froid.

Having bought a dilapidated chateau in the wilds of Louvelandia, Madame Tutulescu began visiting orphanages in Rumania and snapping up the most attractive little urchins through perfectly legal procedures of adoption for perfectly lethal purposes.


Well! Was I ever consternated when I pulled up a web page from "Up Your Eponym" (Startling Glower couldn't resist flaunting his ersatz erudition over yet another medium, especially since his producers started flashing his E-mail address at the end of the program--and he didn't even know how to use it!) on the true and limited meaning of affinity, and the prepositions it takes--so often has it been used for knack or aptitude in cahoots with for. What it really means is a feeling of kinship, an emotional bond, a sympathetic link, and the prepositions that follow it are between, with, or to.

The affinity between Incognito VIII and Capriccio grew more consummate year by year--a telepathic rapport and total trust that enabled the pair of them to give the entire country the slip in the midst of that shoddy furniture affair.

"Do that beast and I ever have an affinity to each other!" wrote Laurinda of a chance encounter that swept her off her feet in the midst of her honeymoon. It wasn't the minotaur in the hotel pantry, either, but an imperial guard dog in charge of the little prince on whom she was paying a diplomatic call on behalf of her uncle Nimbo.

Her affinity with the panther enabled Kristiana to roam freely about and below the Schloss and explore at her leisure the passage that contained abandoned armaments and skeletons of prisoners from the vicious but efficacious skirmish with neighboring Azuriko.


Zoe Platgut believes that the misuse of most instead of almost (for nearly) fits into a pervasive pattern: our passion for brevity, our haste to abbreviate, especially in speech; but those habits spill into our writing. "A curious paradox prevails here," writes Platgut, "for we are both kicked back and in a hurry."

Almost everyone at the premiere glittered and sparkled, and it was a great relief when the lights went down and the curtain rose on the first act of Clackengirth's opera.

Almost every day, nowadays, I pray for my country's deliverance from this band of smooth-talking thugs.

"Do you ever think our country's on a collision course of histrionic journalism?"

"Almost all the time."

Most has its place in instances such as these:

Odious is the most gentle, caring sadist who's ever asked permission to mistreat me.

"Count Ghastly is the most lugubrious wretch I have ever attempted to humor," wrote Golly Inch-keep Gallimauf in a memorandum to Jesperanda, who went on to write the depressing gothic bestseller The Wretch of Lugubria.

Most of the time, we leave the dog outside to frighten the knickers off muggers taking a break.

That's the most you're ever likely to see of the palace of Trajikistan's three kings.

          alongside of

Zoe Platgut, in her fiercer moments, says alongside should never be followed by of. Even Drat Siltlow, who cites several lyrics in which the preposition keeps the beat, concedes it's unnecessary.

Running alongside the lorry on the autobahn was a beast with a matted coat of black fur and sparks flying off its teeth.

A ship with Trajik flag, shattered bow, and tattered sails had pulled up alongside the Scarlatina in the Zardana marina before Ziggie Spurthrast set out on her morning sprint, her leopard skin cutoffs and tank top attracting the attention of a spotted cat in heat who'd recently escaped from the circus.

Alongside the River Oublique in the Valley of Mousserousque winds a footpath frequented by fauns with festering hoofs and runaways headed for the hinterlands who wish to purify their souls en route.


Although and though are interchangeable as conjunctions, but one takes precedence over the other depending on which part of a clause or sentence you're in. To open a clause, although is the one on which to bestow your favor. In linking words or phrases, though is more often obliging, and in certain constructions only though is correct, as we'll see with both Manx Vulpino and the warrior/lover below.

Although we've never actually met, I feel I know you through and through--as if I had a hand or stake in your conception and every rite of passage since.

I sent him letters every day begging him to keep his distance--for his own safety as well as mine--although I secretly hoped, even expected, to find him hanging from my balustrade when I returned from my Serbo-Croat lessons with my consonants in distress.

Raving mad though I am about most of Manx Vulpino's work, I think that in his ballet Torn Wings and Faux Pas he's gone too far--with sylphs squawking like a gaggle of goosed Valley Girls and ostriches of a certain age on point and attempting entrechats.

He was a fearless warrior though timid suitor whose knocking knees and bulging eyes habitually announced his arrival. Over an intimate dinner for three, four, or five (anticipating rejection, he usually invited several of his heartthrobs at once and thus wound up with a voracious harem on the tab), he would crush the crystal in his firm though terrified grip, fracture his anecdotes into evanescent glints, swallow his bow tie, and come back from the powder room to a fur coat in the cloakroom--and here his valor always returned when it came to defending the torpid wrap against its usual occupant attempting to reclaim it.

"Although my married name is Madame Joubert Plume, Nada Seria is my nom de plume," said the once-upon-a-time sex-shifter Natty Ampersand.


Amend means to set right, to change for the better, improve, and is brought about by alteration or addition, to a text, for example--resulting in an amendment. Emend, a more formal word, means to effect such changes in a scholarly or literary work, and here the upshot is an emendation.

Procedures to apply for the Tory Auslander chair at Amplochacha U. have undergone one brief amendment: henceforth, the bathing suit exhibition will be replaced by a competitive cookout while members of the jury play snooker and blindman's bluff in the buff.

On a lavish two-year fellowship from the Vast Monthrock Foundation, and with the help of research assistant Aldebrand Trottenkammer, Sigismund set out on an ambitious emendation of medieval scholarship: asserting that Gossamer and the Green Light was written by a courtesan and mother of three royal bastards destined for joint jestership as keepsakes of her liaison with the melancholic king.

If you don't emend your conclusions to this travesty of the traditions of cartography, young lady, you must renounce an advanced degree.


Amicable tilts more toward friendliness and peacefulness, as in amicable relationships, divorces. Amiable comes bearing the smiles of a sweet nature, a kind heart. The two words are quite close in meaning, but with different emphases. Amenable is less synonymous, and I shall summon back a robot and a dentist to explain. When the dentist declared himself not averse to a month in Buenos Aires, he was amenable to the notion of such a trip--that is, tractable, open to suggestion, advice.

The rupture of relations between Torquil and Jonquil was far from amicable. Torquil stalked her on the boulevards, burned Eastern crosses on her balustrade, bombed her mailbox with incendiary marzipan, invaded her E-mail with insinuations and pseudonyms, and crashed her farewell party in an asbestos cat-suit sporting a battery-operated lashing tail with which he thrashed Jonquil before a roomful of incredulous guests.

Jonquil's own amiable disposition would not give way, however, and she'd sidle up to strangers in the street singing variations of "Don't Be Cruel" she'd adapted for her ex's ire.


An anodyne is a cure, a palliative, a source of soothing comfort; as an adjective, it means capable of bestowing comfort, eliminating pain; relaxing: anodyne brochures from the Azuriko tourist bureau promising melodious brooks and purling streams, beneficent mists from waterfalls, spas with radioactive waters that put flight to the most searing gout, plaguing doubt. An androgyne is an androgynous individual, possessing qualities of both sexes, that is: embodying the extremes of neither male nor female, but blending the two into a harmonious whole; a being of ambiguous gender.

Torpor in the Swing includes a walk-on part for a prepossessing androgyne who has a go at the heroine's anomie. The author implies that she's overdosed on anodynes and plots a rude awakening in her bower of dappled light and silken screens.

"What I'm really looking for," said Flip, "is the embodiment of every promise running around loose on two more or less matching smooth or hairy legs: an androgyne who'll let me have my way when I don't know what I want, who'll keep me guessing when I do, who'll wear the skirt when I'm in the saddle and crack the whip when I've got the blues."

Is there no anodyne for this low-down, cussed feeling that I'm headed for annihilation, but with no oblivion in its wake?


An antagonist requires another to oppose, contend with in a struggle, battle of wits or wills: two antagonists make a fight. In literature, an antagonist is the principal opponent of the novel's or play's main character, its hero, heroine, or protagonist. Thus the morally ambiguous Reynaldo is the antagonist of Capriccio in The Case of the Lapsed Credenza, a novella based on the heroic high jinks of King Incognito VIII's right-hand man, who was, by the way, ambidextrous.

Out of my way, you irrelevant quidnunc. I'm the protagonist of this crime and romance thriller," said Drasko Mustafovic in a rare flash of arrogance that bordered on hubris to a supernumerary with whom he shared an elevator ascending the Hotel Artaud.

In The Espresso Murders, Alfonsi Lombardini, accused of snuffing out eighteen intellectual drifters mid-cappuccino, confronts a formidable antagonist, Tanagra Canasta, whom he wins over to belief in his innocence once he's distracted her affection from one of the victims, a mustachioed poet of little promise and even less talent who'd lived in her mother's closet one bleak New England winter and emerged in the spring with a parody of Paradise Lost in macaronic language and a scarlet slipper clutched to his hypochondriacal chest.

"I never dreamed my own son might turn into an antagonist of breakers of the law," said one bandit to another as they discussed the woes of fatherhood and their bungled raid on the Schloss's vaults.


What People are Saying About This

Alain de Botton
A wonderfully amusing, eccentric, and intelligent book which delights in stretching our concept of what literature can be: avant-garde in the best sense, full of fun and fantasy.
Constance Hale
Karen Elizabeth Gordon is a siren of language. Follow her on this odyssey through Louvelandia, Trajikistan and Blegue, and you will delight in twists of tongue, you will discover hidden pleasures, you will shiver with glee.
Charles M. Schulz
Karen Elizabeth Gordon's writing is sheer magic. I keep her books next to my drawing table. Almost every day I open one at random and always end up asking, 'How does she do it? How does she know all these things?' She is a marvel, and she gets better all the time.
Julian Rios
This essential and sentential fictionary demonstrates that the dictionary spiced with stories is a real page-turner.

Meet the Author

Karen Elizabeth Gordon is the author of The Deluxe Transitive Vampire, The New Well-Tempered Sentence, The Ravenous Muse, The Red Shoes and Other Tattered Tales, The Disheveled Dictionary, Paris Out of Hand, and Torn Wings and Faux Pas. She divides her time between Berkeley, California, and France.

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