I have no answers to this one, just questions...
A writer asked me to give him an endorsement for a forthcoming short story collection a few days ago. (Ballistics by Alex Keegan. Salt Publishing (naturally!) June 2008... look out for this one.)
This is the guy who I credit with teaching me so much... and I was delighted to do so. I hadn't read his work for a while, and asked for a few stories to read, just to refresh...
I read a few pieces, and the floodgates opened. His stuff is terrific; I was instantly back in that place you are as a slightly wobbly learner, awestruck.
And the few lines I wrote (which will probably never be used, who am I anyway?!) included this phrase
"emotionally true, sharply intelligent and often beautiful."
And that got me thinking.
Then today, there's a review of Issue 2, GUD.
In one of the most beautiful stories in this issue, Vanessa Gebbie creates Jamie Hawkins in "Jamie Hawkins' Muse"
The story that won at Per Contra (Silver Leaves for Judah Jones...HERE) was described by the editors as 'beautiful'.
But WHY and HOW is work beautiful? What makes Jamie H so? The language is fairly simple and deals with a mortician! Judah is more rhythmic...and he's a window cleaner in love with a window... I dunno!
I know in the work of the writer mentioned above, its a combination of rhythm (he's Welsh, and the rhythms remind me so much of my childhood, and they sing, and flow), and character... the creation of real people who take you by the hand and look closely at you as they tell their stories... and thematic stuff. Themes that touch.
And I am sitting here wondering if you can be taught to write beautiful, and if that is what happened when I was taught, or whether its a hit and miss thing that happens with a combination of craft things almost by accident.
Because if I try to write beautifully, I miss by a few miles.
On the other hand, maybe its not in the writing at all. Maybe its in the air, the thing that happened when the floodgates opened, that made me feel a bit wobbly? Is it a chemistry thing?
I get =the same sense when reading The Shawl by Cynthia Ozyck, or In The Gloaming by Alice Eliott Dark. Both those stories are beautiful.