Tuesday, December 6, 2011
I'd say the major theme of my blog has been trying to figure out what a blog really is - and more broadly what writing is. About 6 of my posts have to do with literature - understanding what a book is, what makes good writing, and what new media is doing that changes the way we communicate with each other through the written word. Another prevalent theme has been understanding our campus culture and social issues such as feminism.
I think I am closer to understanding the function of a blog, but I'm not entirely converted to the idea yet. I know that for myself, I don't want my blog to function as a journal. I have a journal for that. I do like using it as a way to more thoroughly develop ideas about larger issues. Knowing that it will be published on the internet gives me more of a drive to create a logical argument than writing in my journal does. The posts that I have most enjoyed writing are the ones that have helped me to understand why things bother me - be they poorly written books, BYU politics, or mommy blogs. I don't always argue things in my journal (although I did rant for a few pages about that Daily Universe article about romance novels). I know that writing helps us all to think through our arguments more thoroughly, so having a structured forum for that has actually helpful.
To me, the best writing is the kind that you read that is so beautiful that you don't even care what is being said. There are a few books that were that for me.
John Steinbeck's East of Eden:
“Do you know that I paid two dollars for him thirty-three years ago? Everything was wrong with him, hoofs like flapjacks, a hock so thick and short and straight there seems no joint at all. He’s hammerheaded and swaybacked. He has a pinched chest and a big behind. He has an iron mouth and he still fights the upper. with a saddle he feels as thought you were riding a sled over a gravel pit. He can’t trot and he stumbles over his feet when he walks. I have never in thirty-three years found one good thing about him. He even has an ugly disposition. He is selfish and quarrelsome and mean and disobedient. to this day I don’t dare walk behind him because he will surely take a kick at me. When I feed him mush he tries to bite my hand. And I love him."
-Samuel Hamilton about his horse, Doxology
Jack Kerouac's On the Road:
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”
Cormac McCarthy's The Road:
“He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.”
There are a few other books as well. Love in the Time of Cholera, although an awful story, has some of the most beautiful writing I've ever read. Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic does a similar thing, and really, East of Eden in its entirety is the best example of what I'm talking about.
I guess what I am wondering is if it is weird that I value form over content, for the most part. I didn't actually like reading Love in the Time of Cholera because it just got so unremorsefully awful, but I still read it because it was beautifully written. I think the best books (like East of Eden) combine both form and content, but in the end, I will read the books that I find to have the best form, even if the content isn't the best - and not vice versa.
I wish I knew how to articulate what it is about East of Eden that I love so much. I think it has something to do with how the best and worst parts of human nature are combined, how well written it is, and how it is based on our common creation story. And, Samuel Hamilton is my favorite literary character, so that helps. Compare that to Twilight, if you dare. I think about the most inspiring thing Edward ever says is, "Do I dazzle you?" Yet, tons of people read it and rave about it, because the story is interesting, if hollow. If I do ever write a book, I want it to be beautiful to read. I don't want just the story to drive it - I want language to drive it. Because that, for me, is what makes storytelling an art.
K, I'll get off my high horse now.