Tuesday with Thalia: Best Setting

I don’t have a visual imagination. It is hard for me to release the sound of the words and the mechanics of writing as I read so that I can see the world of my books. It takes a masterful writer to produce a world that shakes free of florid description and jump starts my imagination.  Good writing, like good violin technique, is invisible. Rather than drawing attention to itself either through clod hopping ineptitude or through overtly elegant stylization, really good writing fades to the subconscious and lets the reader take over.

How this is done, I do not know. Practice, I suppose. In a violinist, practice is all that separates the shrill, prominent, unflexible tone of the student, from the golden, shaded, enchantment of the master. I don’t know how that transformation is made, I don’t know what tools the arms and hands employ. But there it is. It’s invisible, and sometimes unintentional, but good technique effaces itself and leaves room for artistry.

I can think of three books that I have read which dragged me past the verbiage into their world. The Man Who was Thursday is washed in saffron and crimson, and the ragged, jagged London that Chesterton made for this uneasy dream comes alive. I also just love Gabriel Syme. I identify with his wild humors, and when he goes off to accomplish some feat, I am beside him.

Currently, I am reading The End of the Affair which my brother lent to me  after he reviewed it for his blog. He bought it from his library’s sale for a handful of pennies. “Take it, but read it carefully.” he said, “for each page is an isolated individuality.” It’s not so much the post-war London that I’m drawn to, but the pull of the character’s emotions and conflict.

But the very first book that ever pulled me into its world was Julius Caesar. In college, I worked for a captioning company that handled captions for phone calls for the deaf. When employees aren’t on calls, they may do whatever they like. Some study, some read, some do endless cross word puzzles. I was reading Julius Caesar at work, late late late on a Thursday night and nobody was calling anyone, all over the United States.

I saw the bloody sunset. I saw the sunset wounds. I was shivering, and alone on a Roman battlefield when my supervisor walked up behind me and spoke my name.

7 inches, I estimate. I yelped loudly and jumped out of my chair. Wrenched back to the 21st century, babbling like an idiot, I attempted to explain why I was crying. “b-b-b-b-b-b-but…………. B-B-B-B-B-Brutus!………I loved him!”


8 thoughts on “Tuesday with Thalia: Best Setting

  1. “Rather than drawing attention to itself either through clod hopping ineptitude or through overtly elegant stylization, really good writing fades to the subconscious and lets the reader take over.”

    This is Truth, and you express it so well. I seem to come at this from the opposite side as you. My imagination is visual, perhaps extremely so, and I think in three dimensions rather than two (this is why I sculpt more than I paint). So it is very interesting to me to see what works for you. I am equally curious to know what doesn’t work for you!

  2. Thalia, Don’t the moors call to you out of the very blood that you share with those rugged English? Think, darling, The Hound of the Baskervilles, surely you can hear the loneliness of The Secret Garden, Jane Eyre etc. When the wind blows, do you never go to Scotland with MacDonald or Stevenson? When the rain whips against the windows, do you never sit with Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter in the study?
    PS Why do I have an ugly thingy next to my name?

  3. Beautifully written!

    Isn’t it kind of embarrassing, getting caught weeping over a book in public? Not that I’m ashamed to cry over books, but you worry that the people who see you don’t understand and think you’re some kind of sentimental nincompoop. I remember finishing A Tale of Two Cities down at the skating rink while my sister was practicing, and I ended up crying right there in the lobby.

  4. I am a hollowed out handicapped stunted soul, apparently. The Hound of the Baskervilles gives me one or two strong images, but for the rest, Debbie…no…..
    And my dear Urania, I’ve never been caught crying over a book. It is an embarrassment I would gladly feel, but the only book I’ve ever cried for is The Hiding Place. Though the Oscar Wilde story about a giant sometimes induces a pair of tears…
    So I guess that makes me the odd man out!

  5. Even more impressive is that Shakespeare didn’t have much opportunity to work with straightforward landscape description, as novelists do! All through the dialogue and the props, he had to create his worlds. While I admit no Shakespearean world has drawn me in as much as my favorite novels have, focusing as I do on his characters and dialogue rather than his settings, nonetheless his accomplishments are very impressive.

  6. Pingback: Conclusion « Egotist's Club

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