Friday, November 12, 2010

A small moment of pleasure

I'd like to share a small moment of pleasure with you.

I'm reading Lorrie Moore's "A Gate At The Stairs". I first encountered her via her short story collection "Birds of America". I'm only a few pages into her novel and I've found myself sighing in admiration at her use of language.

It seems to me that there is a tendency in novels to have a lot of the text there simply to move things along. The text is mechanical,sometimes sleekly efficient and admirable in its own way, but not inherently beautiful.

Moore's novel is written with the same attention to language as her short stories. This is not to say that the novel lacks pace or structure but rather that the pace fueled by a strong sense of place and character and the structure has beauty etched through every strut and brace.

Here's an example:

Our narrator is a twenty year old college student, a country girl with little experience of life beyond her farm, who is interviewing for a part time job looking after children. She is meeting a prospective employer

"I'm Tassie Keltjin;" I said thrusting out my hand.

She took it and then studied my face. "Yes," she said slowly, absently unnervingly scrutinizing each of my eyes.Her gaze made a slow , observing circle around my nose and mouth. "I'm Sarah Brink," she said finally. I was not used to being looked at close up, not used to the thing I was looking at looking back. Certainly my own mother had never done such looking, and in general my face had the sort of smooth, round stupidity that did not prompt the world's study. I had always felt as hidden as the hull in a berry, as secret and as fetal as the curled fortune in a cookie, and such hiddenness was not without its advantages, its egotisms, its grief-fed grandiosities..

Text like this I can taste. I sip at it the way I would a good wine. Recalling it makes me smile. This is how I would like to be able to write.

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