Sometimes I read them and am in awe of people who can write like that. I wonder how their brains can put words together in such a way that they create an entire story within one or two sentences.
I recently read a book called ‘The Gate at the Stairs’ by Lorrie Moore. I had never heard of her before and thought I was reading a first-time novelist, until I read on the inside blurb she was an award-winning writer. So much for that. The book is great, well worth reading, but read it anyway for the way she crafts words together.
The main character of this book, Tassie, is a twenty-year-old student who has escaped her small home town to go to university. Listen to how she describes her old high-school friends when she goes back home for the first time:
‘… ominous androids who’d perhaps been hatched from young humans but who were now just inadequate and unattractive impersonations hoping to pass as actual people. They would loiter for a while on this planet, until they were summoned home, where they would be decoded and tossed in a junk heap, their zombie-cookie faces eventually devoid even of their faultily assigned facial expressions, their boring experience all stored in subcutaneous data-processing chips.’
There is a book by Karen Lazar called ‘Hemispheres’ (okay, I did edit it but I love it regardless). Karen is in a wheelchair, having had a stroke ten years ago, and this book contains fragments of memories of that time. She uses words beautifully and skilfully, pared down to their bare essentials. This is one of my favourite sentences:
‘Running up stairs is a half-forgotten melody strained after; embracing the beloved with two arms, a phantom vision.’
No wonder writing is called an art.