Monday, May 16, 2005

Write Me a World

Two (related) things. First, I'm rereading Jane Smiley's Horse Heaven, and I'm reminded again that this is a perfect book. I read it voraciously, except when I'm trying to not do that in order that the pleasure lasts longer. There's a perfect paragraph farther along than I am now and I'll post it for you when I get to it. I've bought at least two other copies of this book to give as gifts, and I suspect I'll buy more.

Second, though, Susie once again hits a nail on the head. Here's what she says:
I’ll tell you exactly why people can’t write: They don’t read.

They don’t read, and this is about as silly as trying to learn how to play baseball without ever playing catch.
Yeah, I'd say she's absolutely right about that one. Reading is one of the great joys in life. I decided not to be an English major in college in part because I loved to read so much and I was afraid that analyzing what I read would destroy the magic for me. I love the way a really good writer can bring a world to life for me, even as I marvel at a particularly brilliant, telling turn of phrase, and I love the way even a mediocre writer (Tolkien leaps to mind here) can nevertheless lead me to another world. (In the case of Tolkien, I think it's that he has packed so much detail behind his writing--he truly created a whole detailed world--that it makes up for the deficits of the writing qua writing and the relative lack of character depth and complexity.) One of the things I like about Blogistan, as a matter of fact, is that the people I read regularly have distinct voices, personalities, selves--and most of them are excellent writers. I suspect those things are related, but even the not-quite-as-excellent writers have clear personalities. This aspect of words has always been a kind of magic to me, too--the fact that we craft, we create, sometimes well and sometimes poorly; we bring into being that which did not exist, even if what we think we've done is "merely" describe. The other inseparable aspect, of course, is that the choice of this word rather than that also eliminates possibilities, narrows things down in interesting ways. (I won't bore you with more Wittgenstein right now, but, trust me, he fits here more than anywhere.)


Blogger landismom said...

I think you made the right choice by by not majoring in English. My dh and I both grew up in literate families, and loved to read as kids. He was a Comp Lit major, and went to grad school for English lit (but then dropped out), and now he never reads fiction--he says he just can't stand to hear the analysis in his own head.

I majored in something fluffy and insubstantial (can you say art school?), and I still read a novel every six minutes. (well, maybe not that quickly, now that I have kids). I'm happy that I still have my lifelone love of fiction.

And huzzah for Jane Smiley--I've loved her work since "A Thousand Acres" first came out.

9:04 AM  

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