Friday, September 29, 2006

Good writing as miracle

I've been reading The Sound on the Page by Ben Yagoda. It's excellent. Here's a selection from ch. 2 about what writing is and the reader's role:

Everybody who writes is engaged in the remarkable enterprise of making consciousness manifest — catching the slipperiest of substance, a thought, and nailing it to a page. It is amazing, when you think about it, that people should even try to do such a thing; that theywould occasionally succeed, nearly miraculous. And indeed, there is something spiritual about the act of writing. When it's done in a slovenly manner or in bad faith, it seems somehow sacrilegious. When it's done well we should stand back and regard it with a kind of reverence.

Writing is also alone in the level of mediation it requires its consumers to make. … A film, a play, a painting, or a piece of music can wash over you and at least make you wet, so to speak, but you can't receive a piece of writing passively; it requires work, an act of translation called reading.

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