Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beauty, of the writerly sort

Every now and then, someone uses words in a way that stops me short. It's an amazing feeling to stumble upon words--writing--like that. When a writer is able to perfectly, expertly, seemingly painlessly (ha! I know better!) capture old truths, to restate things I already know, but in a gorgeous way that makes me pause and nod and see them as if they are completely new discoveries, it makes me nothing short of ecstatic. And if a writer does all that while also using vibrant, beautiful language, then I'm completely, entirely that writer's captive. A willing captive, who wants to shout out words of agreement and encouragement from rooftops for that writer.

Since this blog is the closest thing I've got to a rooftop, please read this as me shouting: RUN, DON'T WALK to read Alexander Chee's "100 Things About a Novel, Pt. 1." His "things" (which are far too lovely to simply be given such an ordinary title, but it's his name for them, not mine) are honest and true and both perfectly stated and understated at the same time, and to top it all off, the editor in me is mad-in-love with his perfectly elegant use of syntax. Right now I'm caught between both hoping he'll post the other 70 or so right-away-fast-like-tomorrow, and hoping he'll post them oh-so-slowly, so I can luxuriate in imagining just how perfect they'll be, when he finally does so.

Which "thing" resonates most for you?


  1. Oh, thanks for posting that! A few people mentioned it on Twitter, but I lost it when I tried to go back.

    My favorites are 18 and 23. Both testament to the power of revision and the evolution of the story.

  2. I agree. I am reading it and already nodding along in agreement. Thanks for posting this!

  3. I love a perfect sentence too. Or even a perfect paragraph (I'm thinking Cormac McCarthy)where you just have to read it to someone. M

  4. I love the part about novels taking big bites of each other. That is so true!

  5. I loved those things! I'm afraid I have to agree with #12, and I'm seeing the truth of #22 as we speak.

    I highly, highly recommend Alex's novel EDINBURGH, by the way, if you haven't read it. It's incredible:

  6. A FaceBook reminder, conjuring visions of cake, ice cream and presents, led me to your blog and Chee's post on novels. Number 18 smiled knowingly at me---I got no further. My own humble writings start with the Illustration Friday word-of-the-week (being an artist), and progress to a place that is not usually associated with the literal meaning of that word. It is only after I've finished my 'ten blocks of thinking' and writing that I am clear about what the word has stirred, and what memories, images and wise words by others have gathered to throw light upon one simple truth or question. It is an amazing unfolding... and I ALWAYS hope that I won't be asked what I'm writing about before I, myself, figure it out. Would a woman want to be asked if it's a girl or a boy, while she's giving birth? Of course not!