Thursday, April 23, 2009

In Words

One of my favorite things that anyone anywhere has ever said can be found in the introduction to the 1976 edition of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. She says that:

"The artist deals in what cannot be said in words. The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words. The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words."

This succinct and elegant paradox is at the heart of a great deal of what I believe about not only fiction but theatre and about life as well. The techniques of the mundane, used rigorously and honestly, are essential to the creation of the un-nameable, the extraordinary, and the transcendent. The simplest things contain mystery and the most mysterious, simplicity. It is possible to say in words what cannot be said in words. This is more to me than some koan to ponder abstractly (apologies if I'm misrepresenting the nature of koans here, I'm guessing they actually are not particularly abstract to those who make them a part of their lives). It reads like an imperative, a command to go forth and be complicated, to go forth and allow ambiguity. Most of all, it is an almost irresistible invitation to write.

Every time I start to think about that particular quotation, I am overwhelmed with the need to write, to make strange plans and verbal circles and what Dorothy Allison calls 'mean stories.'Lately, much of my writing (at least the part that doesn't revolve around reference services, special collections, and information policy) has been here, on this blog. While I consider Second Dinner largely a kind of journal, a record of my life in food and kitchen, and a means to share that record, it is also a record, intentional or un-, of my personal philosophies, my likes, dislikes, loves, obsessions, breads, and hopes. And it's largely a written record. I take pictures, yes, to keep you all coming back, but they are usually an afterthought, and it shows. (Sometimes Matt takes them, then they're better). I've thought a lot about improving my photo skills, and I will and I am, but truthfully, presentation as a whole isn't my thing. My thing is making and writing. Sure, I like all the pretty pictures on other people's blogs, but what really gets me is...the writing. Re-reading Julie and Julia last month, I was suddenly struck for the first time by the fact that Julie Powell's highly influential and addictively written Julie/Julia Project had been completely photo free. The attraction was the writing itself, the narrative of writing about reading and making, the intersection of writer I like that. I like that a lot.

This doesn't mean that I'm going to stop taking photos. I like remembering, and it's easier to visualize sometimes (though it does clog the hard drive). It just means that I am taking up the narrative challenge, to say in words, to chronicle something meaningful in a meaningful way. Even a little blog can have a dream.

1 comment:

Joan said...

Katya - i love your words