SUDDEN LIGHT Gratitude for the Gifted Few Who Lovingly Preserve a Lost Art
“Her body moved with the frankness that comes from solitary habits. But solitude is only a
human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot; every choice is a world
made new for the chosen. All secrets are witnessed.”
Hmmm, are there many of us left who prize the poet living within the novelist and the magical dance with language to which they treat us?
I don’t often write about the art of writin
ways a bit reluctant to wade into the subject. All forms of art are hig
hly personal. What is brilliant in one person’s eyes can be
mediocre in the eyes of another. The paragraph at the top of this post
, the opening lines from Barbara Kingsolver’s
, is my hands-down favourite opening of a novel. Kingsolver is one of my favourite writers in large part because of her elegant and poetic narrative voice.
The majority of novelists in this era are primarily storytellers. I don’t mean that
in a pejorative way. Engaging storytelling is a critical component of a good novel. But a novelist
s facility with language, the ability to weave magic with it and paint compelling mental pictures, is what brings a novel to life for me. The opening lines
from Donna Morrissey’s
are another glowing example. Morrissey is an east coast, Canadian writer with a distinctive voice and a rare gift for infusing language with passion and visual brilliance.
It was a di
rty old night that washed Gid O’
Mara up on the shores of Rocky
s Brush, the old-timers called it, that late-spring storm that comes with the fury of February winds, transfiguring the desolate rock island of Newfoundland into a great whale soaring out of the Atlantic, shaking and writhing as if to rid itself of the shacks, wharves and boats clinging to its granite shores like barnacles.
You just know when you read those opening lines that the novel is going to be a literary masterpiece with images and emotions that leap off the page. There are those who will assert that this is self-indulgent writing.
I’m afraid we’ll h
ave to agree to disagree on that point. The novelist I most admire, and most aspire to emulate (although I doubt I will ever come close to doing so), is southern U.S. novelist David Payne. He combines a remarkable facility with language with gifted storytelling that makes me linger over every page.
Don’t take my word for
it. Let the opening lines of his novel
speak for him.
“Cracking the h
awser like a sluggish whip, Joe Madden shook off the row of icicles that had formed like murderous tinsel overnight and leaped aboard, his steps ringing on the already moving boat. Above him in the bow, Jubal Ames, in aviator glasses, red hair stiff as a wire
brush, loomed through the tinted lexan windows of the wheelhouse.”