Sunday, February 08, 2004


An absence of words has been seen [or not seen?] over the last couple of days here at firmly ambivalent. Simply an omission of posts, or a silent albeit pretentious statement that asserts 'less is more'? I am more likely to lean toward the former, though admittedly, the latter has interesting connotations with regard to the leanings that writers [of all types] have toward the volume of words that are put forth: abundant versus sparse, the physically heavy tome versus the lexically light poem... Is one better than the other? It can be a simple matter of preference, but there is a bigger question at play here: does a writer's predisposition to loquacity render their prose inferior to that produced by the writer who can express himself just as clearly but with a lot less verbiage?

This whole train of thought was planted in my brain by a piece in the November 2003 issue of The Believer, the focus of which is the contemporary writer's failure to describe their subject's countenance in any great detail. Let us now pause for a moment of silence to mourn the passing of the adjective.

My position is this: each additional description provided makes the reader's imagination work less. If we are talking about fiction, a character starts out as belonging to the writer, but when the book is in my hands, that same character belongs to me, in which case, I can use my imagination to assign characteristics that fluorish in my own mind. It doesn't matter whether the intent of the writer matches my own perception; what does matter is that an impression formed in my mind is my prerogative, and allows me to interpret the presented prose as I see fit. Now when I turn the page, I am aghast to discover an illustration of a character described on the previous page. Not surprisingly, my own imagined perception is affronted by something completely different. This is an intellectual attack of sorts, leaving me to wonder why the writer can't just leave well enough alone, and discard all superfluity in favour of clean and simple prose. Now I understand Kafka's adamance at not allowing an image of the insect to make its way into the pages of The Metamorphosis. Co-incidentally, his favourite format seemed to have been the short story.

More on this later, after I mull it over for a while longer.

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