The Luxury of Words
Language exists to tell the truth. Fiction, being an art whose medium is language, tells the truth by not telling the truth. Fiction is inherently complex, imaginative, and stylized.
I’m not sure that the American school of writing entirely understands this. The golden rule here is to “write tight,” as if one were composing an essay or exposition. The idea is that if you don’t “need” a word to “tell the story” – and by ‘story’ we mean plot exclusively – its presence is well-nigh sinful. If you say ‘well-nigh’ when you could say ‘nearly’ you are a pretentious babbler.
Thus, we consent to fiction’s ability to tell us the truth by means of a story – a device not necessary to human life in a pragmatic sense – but we deny it the liberty to shape the story in any but a pragmatic fashion.
I think there is a luxury to words, to reading whole well-written passages that do nothing except lead you by the hand into some strange territory whether of the human person or of an imaginary world. Plot is not everything. Sometimes plot, like the greater blessing the lesser, bears pointless little beauties on its shoulders. I’m also not convinced that story consists of nothing but plot. If it did, my synopsis of Aleth would be sufficient and I would be relieved of the duty of actually writing the story, with descriptions and dialogue and affective images.
I guess that plot was being attacked at some point and they wanted to save it. I’m all for that as I believe that the traditional plot structure is a reflection of our Christian understanding of how the world ends. All the same, the point of the world is not merely to end. A lot of stuff happens in the meantime and God thought it good that it should have the chance to happen and to be enjoyed by creatures who could not see the point in it.
Enough either-or, please.
However, some people who think they agree with me might say ‘luxury’ when what they are really indulging in is dissipation. I like the word ‘dissipation’ because it suggests both lascivious undiscipline, and the spreading out of something until it loses poignancy or coherence. Unfortunately I feel I have to explain that, because no one ever sees these double meanings that I intend my words to have.
So I do not mean to defend people who think they are doing art when actually they are just vomiting whatever happens to be in their minds onto a paper or computer screen.
“Oh, ah!” they say, rubbing their massive bellies or combing their greasy hair. “Better in than out. That feels much better. I love art.”