To discover in the course of research some engaging detail we know can be put into a story where it will do some good can hardly be classed as a felonious act– it is simply what we do. The worst you can call itis a form of primate behavior. Writers are naturally drawn, chimpanzee-like, to the color and the music of this English idiom we are blessed to have inherited. When given the choice we will usually try to use the more vivid and tuneful among its words. I cannot of course speak for Mr. McEwan’s method of proceeding, but should be very surprised indeed if something of the sort, even for brief moments, had not occurred during his research for Atonement. Gentian violet! Come on. Who among us could have resisted that one?

From Letters of Note, again.

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