Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Throughout my academic career I have taken notes on what makes a good writer. Why is it that when some people use the same words that are in my vocabulary they become literary magic, while my constructions consider infantile.

At least where my favorite authors are concerned, and this goes for scholarly and literary figures, I like a succinct writer; one who can convey their thoughts as directly as possible.

Most especially in fiction I find myself attracted to old pulp stories from writers such as Robert Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and HP Lovecraft. The sparsity of adjectives creates an austerity that hones in on the adjective they do select like the mind centers on certain enigmatic attributes in a dream. You barely remembe the figure in a dream other than their broad outline or ascribed identity, but you remember a cloth around their neck... or a gun in their hand. It's when the rest of them is made patently unremarkable that the lone item can convey so much... black shoes, white shirt, black hat... and a sword - the dangerous man. Lethal - the grin of violent arrogance, begging you to make the first move towards your sheath. So much with a wink and a weapon, and no need to go further.

The imagination has to fill in everything else. The savage picts come upon our hero in the wilderness painted "as savages do for war, in their primal ferocity." Yes! No see my mind can work with that. I enjoy the effort of creating subtle distinctions in my mind. But then there is one with a skull helmet... the leader, surely this will be a fierce battle ^^

Even in textual criticism there is a certain beauty to the prose of a few authors which others lack. Even reading the most absurd literary criticism by Harold Bloom offers an insight into the mind of an arrogant literary genius; certain of his abilities as a wordsmith, even to the point of challenging the facts with the power of his narrating presence, and daring the reader to prefer the facts to the aesthetics. Or Jacques Barzun, who freely flows with bold opinion and undeiable facts, weaving one long narrative of 500 years of Western culture, bringing the reader into the history that was, and the history as he presents that it should have been - and I take the bait willingly enough, if only to follow this Kid Durango of linguistic constructs and austere beauty into his beautific vision of a world that was... or at least should have been.


Blogger Jeannette* said...

What makes a great writer...I say someone that throws out all the rules, gets in touch with the inner-child, and lets their heart do the rest :)

11:29 AM  

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