Words: scrim, n.

IT WOULD be a writer so cavalier as not to be a writer at all that scorned the novelist and editor Sol Stein's recent book Solutions For Writers. Much more than a manual, it offers sense and wit on every page, and cites many authors, both well-known and others, "whose names hide behind the scrim of time".

A thin canvas used to line upholstery, its 18th-century origins are obscure, as is the date it became a form of net-curtain; in America, this not only turned into a mask for stage-lights but also that gauze screen on the stage for which there has been a recent vogue here (usually the sign of a dud production, as in the National's A Little Night Music). As a meta-phor, in Stein's sense, it apparently emerged with the Sixties and Sylvia Plath.

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