Saturday, May 17, 2008

Style::A Writer's Locus of Words

To Raphæl

Words—nouns especially—have meanings which are satisfactorily explained in a dictionary. A dictionary is familiar to us as a compendium wherein we try to make sense of words by using other words. We do this by treating a specific word as the object, as the subject of a reality independent of it, so that we can explain it in terms of other words used in a similar sense. We cobble together the meaning. Related to the dictionary is the thesaurus and the encyclopædia, which work similarly, on the basis of associations: words make sense only in connection with other words, which give it a context. This is in keeping with the original (serendipitous) "design" of words as atomic items or symbols that "stood for" things and grains and so on.

This workmanlike treatment of words—words as the object—could not be more disastrous to the writer. No other idea could be more useless, even wrong. Viewed thus, we can always find the apt words to suit the situation, match the context. We are accustomed to there being a subject independent of words when there is none.

The its own subject. A word creates its own space. Words create ambience, words make up style. Ambiance is something abstract, something which we have perhaps felt and want to reproduce in writing; ambience is never concrete. It is always an idea, an ideal. It stands for something we feel, or something we felt. Ambience never makes up—or selects—suitable words to express itself because; it's not there.

...Words make up an ambience. Ambience, or context, is something the writer builds up, brick-by-brick, word-by-word. Ambience is the end-product, the result, of the exercise and a gauge of the writer's skill. It is not given. It is never a question of finding the words to "create" an ambience. Such a notion is purely theoretical. Such a notion of imagining wordless worlds belongs some place else, not to literature. not a "trip." A word—is not a drug.

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