The way certain authors capture a feeling, or a place is, to me, pure art.
We all know it when we read it. We’ve finished a story and been transported. We’ve delighted in the carefully honed prose and marveled at how the piece speaks to our soul. We can’t stop thinking about it, and know it has transformed our reading preferences from that day on. A masterpiece.
What is it that causes some writing to transcend from craft to an art form? In my opinion it’s because the authors are true artists and their brush strokes are put down in perfectly honed word combinations. A skilled writer imparts rhythm, tone, and flow to carry the reader along on waves of tension and release. He plays with voice and word choice and irony. He loves language and can step outside himself to play with his muse.
I enjoy a lot of authors, and when asked who my favorite is, my answer comes more from my heart than my brain. And it differs each time I’m asked. Sometimes I answer, Ray Bradbury, the man whose prose read like poetry and ideas fill the senses. I think of him as the literary equivalent to the artist Wassily Kandinsky.
“Outside the window, in the instant before she vanished, Susan saw the green land and the purple and yellow and blue and crimson walls and the cobbles flowing down like a river, a man upon a burro riding into the warm hills, a boy drinking Orange Crush, she could feel the sweet liquid in her throat, a man standing under a cool plaza tree with a guitar, she could feel her hand upon the strings, and, far away, the sea, the blue and tender sea, she could feel it roll over her and take her in.” ―Ray Bradbury, The Fox and the Forest
Sometimes I blurt out Pat Conroy’s name. His love of words continually enthralls me. His images are as memorable as a Winslow Homer piece. Just look at the first two sentences of The Prince of Tides. Those 13 perfect words set the promise of a great story.“My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.”
I imagine you’re already thinking about your favorite literary work of art. Bellow? Updike? J.K. Rowling?
How about T.C. Boyle? I’d compare his obvious joy of writing and his wickedly creative use of satire, at times raw and moody, to Lucian Freud’s portraits. Here’s a snippet from Boyle’s short story Heart of a Champion.
“Night: the barnyard still, a bulb burning over the screen door. Inside, the family sit at dinner, the table heaped with pork chops, mashed potatoes, applesauce and peas, a pitcher of clean white milk. Home-baked bread. Mom and Dad, their faces sexless, bland, perpetually good-humored and sympathetic, poise stiff-backed, forks in midswoop, while Timmy tells his story: ‘So then Lassie grabbed me by the collar and golly I musta blanked out cause I don’t remember anything more till I woke up on the rock―’”
Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the samples, but now I’m imagining how wonderful it would be to have a museum section in our local bookstores and libraries that pairs the fine art of literature to their visual counterparts―and serves fine wine with gourmet chocolates.
I’d love to hear about your favorite literary piece of art.