Monday, August 3, 2009
High Brau BS
I’m generally impressed with myself when I can get through a difficult book. War and Peace or Don Quixote. I can even up the ante from there and profess that I not only finished, but enjoyed, The Brothers Karamazov… Excellent reads that took most of my brain cells to follow. Strike that… ALL my brain cells. It may be why I love them so much; I had to work REALLY HARD to read them. I’m not sure if that makes me a lightweight literarily (or cognitively) speaking, but I do appreciate a book that takes some effort. I am more engaged, and therefore committed. What I DON’T get, or appreciate, is an assumption that a book HAS to be difficult to have merit. I publish scientifically in my day job. And I’ve learned unequivocally, that it is HARDER to put things in plain English--to make them accessible to people who do NOT specialize in your specialty, than it is to use big words and run on sentences. In fact I believe that people often try to HIDE lack of communication skills in exactly those features (even try to hide a lack of having something to say). I have a former boss who actually prided herself on getting new words into vernacular by getting them in print (do it twice--fool the publisher into printing it, I mean, and it‘s a word--I kid you not), but if a REAL word already exists, then that’s just a venture in silliness. Not that I have anything against silliness, but it seems silliness in the pursuit of prestige should not be the fastest route, unless you are David Sedaris--THEN, silly on! But the two most brilliant women I’ve known personally are statisticians who could make ANYBODY understand a difficult point. PLAIN ENGLISH. (Nancy Perrin and Deb Bybee--should you ever stumble across--that’s for you--THE two most brilliant women I know) What I’m really grumbling about is the English teachers disrespecting J.K. Rowling because Harry Potter isn’t ‘literary’. Well if they mean not a single sentence takes three pages, I suppose that’s true. But (and I mean no disrespect to Falkner lovers *cough*freaks*cough*) a three page sentence that is grammatically correct is not story telling, it is showing off that one has an ability that puts him above the rest of us and therefore fails to communicate. I don’t even like three page PARAGRAPHS. I have to steal my reading time and need at least three stops a page to ensure I don’t have to go back to where I just started because I’ve been interrupted. I think though, what some literary types fail to understand is the goal of writing is communication. It is not one-upsmanship. It is not a wrestling match with the reader to see who wins. It is the sharing of a fabulous-needs-to-be told story. And while difficult CONCEPTS advance thinking, and so in my opinion deserve an audience, difficult LANGUAGE is begging for alone-time in an ivory tower. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.