Monday, June 20, 2005


I haven't posted a thought in a long time, so to atone for a stream of diatribes and pet peeves, I'll offfer two examples of good wriitng:

In its normal state his face never looked especially gentle or composed; at this moment it looked like it was about to explode right out from between his shoulders with excitement, urgency, whatever it was, jumping on across the office toward the desk and already hollering at Father: "Look out, Mr. Maury, get out of the way," reaching, lunging across Father toward the lower drawer where the livery-stable pistol lived; I couldn't tell whether it was Boon lunging for the drawer who knocked back the chair (it was a swivel chair on casters) back or whether it was Father who flung the chair back to make himself room to kick at Boone's reaching hand, the neat stacks of coins scattering in all directions across the desk and Father hollering too now, still stomping either at the drawer or Boon's hand or maybe both:

Of course, this is Faulkner, what would be called minor Faulkner (saying minor Faulkner is akin to stating Tiger Woods on an off-day), but look at the word lived.
Now a merely literate writer would have used the word lay, while a semi-talented writer might have ventured the word slept. Faulkner could have tried breathed, but being Faulkner he wrote lived. Brilliant.

Remember, this high school drop-out, who sleepily attended one semester at a barely credited state university, decided in his mid-teens to become a great writer, and let no demands of family or community stand in his way towards this quest. Successfully Quixotic if you need a description. Imagine what would have happened if academia got a hold of him.

Example number two:

There were older men who did not sit on the stoop out front until they spread their handkerchiefs carefully on the gray stone.

Wow!!! That's DeLillo, folks. Shades of Hemingway, adumbrating Cormac McCarthy. Look at those words parcelled out, like a greengrocer laying out his wares in his bins facing the sidewalk in a display that makes you pause and consider. You read something like this once, move on a bit, then unwittingly turn around and go back to the sentence.

A good rule of thumb is do you find yourself reading the book aloud, unknowingly, yet with delight. Faullkner has that. Melville. Robert Stone. Walker Percy. Cormac McCarthy, yes. DeLillo. Patches of Tom Wolfe. I read somewhere that reading to yourself silently is a recent Western tradition, that libraries of the classic world were buzzing hives of susperation. If anyone can verify this it will be appreciated.


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