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!”