Monday, September 21, 2009

The Wars Part III - riverrun...

Another note about dislodging words from their traditional meanings (if the reader will agree there is such a thing as the traditional meaning of a word.)

If you reduce a word to shape and sound primarily, then you're creating drawings and music. That's certainly a way to write. But a word divorced from its idea, its meaning, is no longer really writing.

What some writers have done from the last century to now is try to reduce the words or phrases of their writing to as brief and atomic units of meaning possible. This is another way of reducing the power of the writing.

Joyce's approach to making up words increased the number of their meanings in the Wake, and compromised plot and perceptible action. Time itself is so fluid in that book that, as he intended, there are no obvious beginnings or endings but a continuous stream of behavior and thought.

I think that's an incredible approach, wildly original and stimulating. But I think it will always remain inaccessible to a general, non-writer or scholar readership. Not that all books should be written for the broader public, but those that aren't should accept that their impact will be limited.

I often think of One Hundred Years of Solitude, one of the best-selling books of all time. I think that it demonstrates that dense books with a plethora of metaphors can also be connected to characters and plot and action and a recognizable arc.

Again, I sound like a Social Realist, and I'm not. I'm just saying that writing that puts stylistic innovation over essential communication should always expect to have a narrower impact. You could argue that change starts at the top, i.e. among the elite. That impact from those changes is felt more broadly than that from popular writing.

I haven't developed these ideas fully yet. In future posts they will be better explained.

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