Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Precise but not pedantic, The complete consort dancing together

Helen S has it absolutely right - I think it's definitely more difficult to pare things down to almost nothing. Not that the big books aren't great, and not to deny that they do things you couldn't do in shorter books, but my instinct is for concise unless heavily persuaded otherwise. I think it requires more discipline from the writer (and/or editor - very interesting article from Val the other day about how editors don't really edit these days, or aren't allowed to, hence so many overblown books) to leave stuff out. Homestead is one of my favourite books of all time, as much as for what's left out as what's left in. Sheer genius. It would have been a family saga in any other hands. Perhaps it's like sculpture - they start with a huge lump of stuff and it is only the removal of excess material which reveals the potential beauty within.

Which is probably the main reason I like poetry. The title of the post is from The Four Quartets by TS Eliot. (John will be in fits of laughter that I have managed to Not Mention my favourite ever literary work for all this time. It weaves its way into most of my conversations, as my patient loved ones know to their cost.) It's in a section where he's talking about the need for precision in language, and how - when the right word for each occasion has been caught - the whole thing dances. (So much better than when the author is flailing around not quite sure of the apposite word, so using plenty in the hope they'll get it accidentally.)

Given that you've just triumphed over the monolith that is A Suitable Boy, Helen, how about a short book to up your average rate? I do this shamelessly; after months getting through Pepys, I devoured Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Chronicle of a death foretold and August's book choice How I live now (Meg Rosoff) in a couple of hours apiece - they are SUPER short. And brilliant. And the shortness is crucial to the brilliance, in my opinion. How about trying the Rosoff?