Saturday, April 16, 2011

Connecting the Zots

Was sent an e-mail this week by a friend with whom I share the love of creation. She is also one of my few blogging friends that I actually know exists. I can testify that she has an analog version of herself to compliment her digital form. That is to say, we’ve met. We work together. Kat, the photographer (her digital self), can be found here: The analog version of Kat resides, for the moment, in Italy… gridare evviva! She’s finishing a two-year TDY with her family in Milan and finds time to share her passion for photography on the web. Love that.

In addition to being an inspired photo jockey, and cracker-jack engineer, Kat is a voracious reader (I was thrilled that she enjoyed an early version of Syntropy). As it happens, her current read is Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet.

Kat graciously sent me an e-mail as a follow up to my blog post of last week and I was floored, purely and magnificently—floored. Have you ever read something that so clearly speaks to your opinion it’s as if someone has climbed inside your head, extracted the appropriate bits, and arranged them better than you could ever hope to? Jon Krakauer and John Irving have connected the dots in my mind on occasion… and Vonnegut has as well (which, to be honest, scares me a little).

In regards to choosing the right word, the dear departed Ms. L’Engle says thus…

“I have a profound conviction that it is most dangerous to tamper with the word. I've been asked why it's wrong to provide the author of a pleasure book, a non-textbook, with a controlled-vocabulary list. First of all, to give an author a list of words and tell him to write a book for children using no word that is not on the list strikes me as blasphemy. What would have happened to Beatrix Potter if she had written in the time of controlled vocabulary? Lettuce has a soporific effect on Peter Rabbit. "Come come, Beatrix, that word is beyond a child's vocabulary." "But it's the right word, it's the only possible word." "Nonsense. You can't use soporific because it's outside the child's reading capacity. You can say that lettuce made Peter feel sleepy."

I shudder.

To give a writer a controlled-vocabulary list is manipulating both writer and reader. It keeps the child within his present capacity, on the bland assumption that growth is even and orderly and rational, instead of something that happens in great unexpected leaps and bounds. It ties the author down and takes away his creative freedom, and completely ignores the fact that the good writer will always limit himself. The simplest word is almost always the right word. I am convinced that Beatrix Potter used "soporific" because it was, it really and truly was, the only right word for lettuce at that moment.”

I swooned as she shredded the notion of “even and orderly” growth. I now have the book at my bedside. Ms. L’Engle surrounds the passage with further eloquence, but I believe the words above, the words Kat chose to share with me, provide a good summary.
Two questions:
1) Do you have writers that connect dots in your head?
2) Any comments regarding Ms. L’Engle’s philosophy on word choice?

Munk’s Opening line…
Never underestimate the reasoning ability of a three-year-old human.
Munk's "Opening Line" is yours to keep, use it. Munk

Music this week... probably not for everyone... but definitely for me. The Pixies, Subbacultcha (you know, when you grope for Luna)