What Writing is to Me

Flavor. I don’t know how better to describe it. Sort of like that first bite of Unagi Maki drenched in soy sauce and slathered with Wasabi — at least that’s my best description. Pure savor. Crafting a well-turned phrase brings with it a satisfaction I can really only compare to sex, though good sex can’t escape the fact that you’re dealing with a fellow human being here and her or his emotional and physical needs come into play. Provided you’re not just an asshole, that is.

I will abandon long- and well-tested beliefs if it means I can write a good sentence. Like with gastronomy, it’s not an active sense — I have to taste the words and feel them on my palate, as with a fine wine or any number of potential food-associated comparisons. It’s not the same as watching Arsenal or the Bulls win a match; that brings a sense of “what now? bitches” directed to the fallen opponent and the resulting sense of triumph. A good sentence or even a good usage brings a satisfaction that surpasses the words it’s based upon. Good diction is the easiest way to attract me as a potential friend or mate (proper usage is a sine qua non — I don’t tolerate grammatical errors. They offend my own warped sense of propriety in the way wearing white after Labor Day affects others.) 

Language of any variety is a flavor meant to be savored, discussed about, analyzed and one never capable of perfection. Nabokov came closest as it comes to English; those who read Lolita as a celebration of pedophilia or as a perversion of all that is good and holy have completed missed the point, and have clearly never read Ada, or Ardor (one of all-time favorites). Lolita is a paean to language in the form of a love missive to a teenage girl. It is also a critique of American culture and a major examination of sexuality, of course, but mostly a hymn to the intricacies of language. Nabokov even writes about the physical feel of the tongue as one speaks or writes. 

And mostly, it is a physical feel, regardless of the dictates of the intellect. I can read medical texts and feel completely unengaged by what’s being written (despite my need to know), or I can pick up Nabokov, Dostoevsky, DFW and lose myself in the grace of their prose without appreciation of their ability to challenge my intellect. John Ashbery and T.S. Eliot in the same category. The words can roll off your tongue or flow from your fingertips, but are nothing but sound and fury without the heart that gives them passion and meaning. 

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~ by Benji on 26 October 2013.

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