Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Writing is not hard work if you keep it to two paragraphs!

To my surprise I recently picked up a book of critical essays and started reading them. These are very smart and insightful essays by a writer who uses language like it's a vast array of surgical instruments, each with a detailed purpose he has mastered. Because I write I have become more attuned to the process and so occasionally recognize one of these surgical instruments and get all excited and smart feeling that I do. Most of the time though I'm baffled by them, or understand that I would have to read a lot of Ancient Greek Poetry to use one of these tools without causing my sentences to start bursting forth with blood.

The writer is Daniel Mendelsohn. He has written several books and writes a lot for The New York Review of Books. I wonder if they let him review his own books in The New York Review of Books? I would like to see him review one and tear it precisely to shreds. It would be fascinating. But my guess is that he would be okay with his own books, not because he is self serving, rather because he is a person who works things out carefully and thoroughly. You need pointless scraps and hanging threads to get the grip to tear things apart. Good luck with that on one of his shiny marble essays. Lately I am reading a lot of very good essays and often end up thinking "These people are working really hard." I don't want to work that hard. The fact that this is the end of my essay is my confession of that alone.

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