What’s in a name?


“The Point of the Pick” is a screwy name. What’s behind it?

In the 1930s, Marxists argued that coal acquired value only when the miner’s pick broke it from the seam. Maybe they still do. Obviously, people buy and sell natural resources in place for their extracted worth independent of anticipated labor input. Our society values many types of goods and services this way. I think, for example, of Vanna White who is paid $8 million a year to turn letters, be cheerful and walk hither and yon in high heels. I will do that job for half that money, no one-tenth: HIRE ME.

Nonetheless, I liked the picture of a 1930s miner picking out an undercut prior to blasting the coal face. I liked the alliteration between pick and point. I liked the connection between the phrase, point of the pick, and The Point, a triangle where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio in downtown Pittsburgh. The City is a principal setting in the story. I liked the idea that I could connect the mining part of the story with the love interest through Allyson Pickering. I liked the memory of writing occasionally for the “The Pittsburgh Point,” an admirable weekly, in the late 1960s.

The actual iron pick head is a plot device that both links the 1930s strike flashback to a pivotal 1975 plot point that drives the ending. The pick is a causation factor, not a goal pursued by the protagonist like a classic MacGuffin. It’s invokes the “African Queen,” rising from the depths to show how forgotten things often determine major life events.

I confess that most of the architectural lines drawn above came to me as I was writing or after, not before. I write without a blueprint. It comes out organized. Some brains work in odd ways.

January 11, 2019