Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I like to read the same kind of writing as the food I like to eat—fresh, clean, crisp, understated, with an unexpected- yet-oh-so-right surprise thrown in here and there. In other words, Southern cooking is just not my thing. The oil, the fat, those poor breaded-and-fried vegetables bereaved of all their health, the sugary-syrupy overflowing ooze—good ole Southern cooking makes my stomach claustrophobic.  I know, sweet southern friends, this may be tragic, but I despise deep-fried foods. Perfectly good meats and vegetables (and all other sorts of things, like butter, that I hear they deep-fry at the state fair) are twisted from all their original wholesomeness . I profoundly feel this tragedy, especially when I remember my mom’s garden. I think those poor deep-fried vegetables are just yearning to go back to their Eden—to being naked and unashamed-- but the Cherubim of Oil and Breading guards the way back.

Writing is the same way. Who hasn’t felt like they would explode in impatience if they had to read yet another redundant, melodramatic sentence that fried the life out of perfectly good words? Of course, I have no room to talk. There are plenty of times where I am attempting to express the weight of something I’ve learned or felt and it just ends up, so to speak, overdone, mushy, and/or burnt. That’s why this blog is not primarily about what I learn or feel. I start trying too hard to be profound and that inevitably leads to flowery, hyphenated words. I don’t like writing like that. You don’t like reading writing like that. So, we’re all well and pleased now.

To say I admire C.S. Lewis’s writing is a bit of an understatement. In his last interview, he said “The way for a person to develop a style is (a) to know exactly what he wants to say, and (b) to be sure he is saying exactly that. The reader, we must remember, does not start by knowing what we mean. If our words are ambiguous, our meaning will escape him. I sometimes think that writing is like driving sheep down a road. If there is any gate open to the left or the right the reader will most certainly go into it.”

I long to say exactly what I mean to say—to fit the perfect words into their perfect places, so that a reader could express, “I always felt that to be true, I just never said it.” That’s what I think it is to read good writing.  But, indeed, the writing itself almost seems transparent, for minds can meet, time can be travelled, and new worlds can be seen through those perfectly chosen words.

But here I go, speaking of something too great and too marvelous for me. Soon, you’ll start feeling your shoes sticking with my over-sweet, syrupy sentiment. I’ll stop now. 

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