All my life I’ve loved to read, but being a writer I have read more about writing than about reading and read much more than I have ever written. So I got to thinking I might get some writing tips from myself if I focused on what kind of writing pleases me, the reader. Which led me a contemplation of the quality of being aesthetic and wondering why it is hard-wired into human consciousness.
I’ll leave that train of thought for another blog. Suffice it to say I believe our sense of aesthetics is part of our survival equipment. It programs us to fall in love; not only with each other but with the world itself. I wonder how many souls have hung around this earthly plane simply because it was so beautiful that they could not bear to leave it?
In the movie Michael, John Travolta plays an angel who has manifested on earth in a mission to help redeem a man’s soul. As it turns out, angels are only allowed a fixed number of visits to this planet. The whole movie is permeated with the nostalgia of Michael’s last trip, his yearning to embrace and remember every detail of the larger aesthetic. What he loves is the complexity of the whole, the beauty with which it all fits together. At one point he turns to a dog and says “Oh, Sparky, I’m going to miss, this all so much”. In those few words he describes every misty morning, every wave, every sunset, every fire fly, the smell of bacon, the scent of rain on hot asphalt, the sound of a flute, a warbler, a train whistle; in short, all that is.
This sums it up for me. I KNOW what he means. This knowing, which can barely be hinted at with metaphor and simile, but never actually described, is at the heart of my aesthetic sense. Basically, as the old cliché states: “I know what I like.”
Having said that, I can describe some bits within the metaphors and similes, which particularly appeal to me. I want there to be connections, and I want them to make sense at some level – physical, emotional, metaphysical –doesn’t matter as long as the internal logic of the author’s story, no matter how surreal it might be, gets preserved.
Above everything, I love a good story. I’m blessed with an easy “suspension of disbelief,” and willing to be instantly whisked away to other galaxies, Amazonian rain forests, a dinosaur dig in the Gobi, or some Podunk courtroom in Maycomb County, Alabama; to become a teenage boy traveling across an alternative USA to find a cure for his dying mother, a misanthropic paleontologist, or a curious eight year old girl child. When I first exited the Indira Ghandi airport, it thrilled me to recognize the scent of India. It smelled just like E.M.Forster described it, decades ago.
Variation, pleases me. I enjoy writing that intersperses short sentences into a string of long ones or vice-versa. I like quotes (only accompanied by translation), parenthetical statements, and relevant asides. Clever puns, associations and word play delight me, but please, don’t explain them. I want to grasp the point myself. On the other hand I detest loose ends—unkept promises, prominent characters which simply disappear, unresolved sup-plots and preaching of any kind.
I love descriptions with emotional content-some authors lovingly relate to the things and places of our world, rather than as souless stage settings incapable of relationship.
I want to access information, emotions and landscapes through the character’s senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, scent and intuition. Show me.
As always, exceptions Underlying everything we know is the great matrix, Earth itself, where all figures and forms, colors and scents harmonize and interrelate. It is sometimes possible for a writer to present work, often through the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated objects, which forces the reader to sink down to that level of awareness. This is great stuff but very difficult to pull off.
Always and forever my preferences hear exceptions bang on my mind’s doors, longing to be voice objection. Some writers phrase things so deliciously, I forget anything else and wallow in sensuality. There is thinking so clear, so logical and precise it induces a sort of cerebral ecstasy which needs no sensory input, and some writing is just so damn good it goes beyond rules and reason or unreason and becomes its own excuse for being. Like I said, it’s a question of aesthetics, which is to say, whatever beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.