Wednesday, December 24, 2008

On a Foolscap Errand

Women who write and men who go down to the sea in ships are both drawn to a dangerous vocation. Success can be very lucrative but many many more toilers are tossed on a wave or swallowed by the enormity of it all.

My daughter is a writer. She has imagination, discipline, and craft. She has a wee novel now afloat on the seas via the internet. It has been scunnered on a sharp rock named "not commercial." A lot of good books and stories have foundered on that reef. If I were ever to be stranded on a desert island, I'd like something to eat and a place to sleep and then for it to be down stream of this reef of non commercial writing. I'd let the tides bring me --as it chose them--all those wonderful stories.

Now I like to think that I am not a language snob (Yes, yes of course no snob ever admits it, do they?), but I feel that those who hold themselves up as an arbiter of what should be published should have the highest standards for language themselves. From the reviews I read on authonomy, I got an unnerving image of Fagin with the purloined handkerchiefs assessing their quality or of the mother superior in Kate Chopin's story who allegedly knew what things cost.

Whose character was it that so coveted the little red rosette in his lapel ? Oh, that is the kind of thing my daughter knows. She reads, she remembers, and she can make those connections between precise language (those who give the rosette are the same arbiters of the correct use of the French language) and characters and characterization. We live in complex times and we need writers and writing that can help us make those connections.

We don't need the sleeked down narratives that move through our brains like a river in spate. We don't need books that follow lock step the same formula for success of the latest blockbuster. We don't need language that is prepackaged to be easily digestible. And sadly that is what we are getting.

It is Christmas Eve day. If you have one more present to buy, make it a book. A real book, not a celebrity bio, or a rehash of a movie, or a scandal revealed. And if you are lucky enough to have a real bookstore close by where you live, buy your book from them.

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