When did it become poor form for an author to send his readers to a dictionary?
I don't know how many times now that I've perused a review blog or lurked through a writers forum and found so much negative response to the use of large words or words whose meaning has changed enough over the years that someone would suggest that using it for what it was intended was a grand sin.
I have heard every argument from it being purple prose to perhaps trying to talk over the reader's head. But, the truth seems to lie in that no one wants to pick up a dictionary anymore. And in this age when the dictionary is a few clicks away on a keyboard that seems even more phenomenally idiosyncratic at the very least.
I recall when I was young, yes I really do, and maybe I don't remember it all exactly the way it was, but I think that I've got this one correct. I was assigned reading, which required the use of a dictionary. I was encouraged to read those novels that would introduce me to new words and I was, eventually, never in fear of entering a library where my mind would be devoured by the vagaries of an author who was too high handed with his vocabulary.
Perhaps it was just me, I remember even times when first delving into Mark Twain's universe that I had to find the meaning to a word. Oh, but, then, I didn't always try to rely on just the context to tell me the meaning. And I knew well the pitfall of trying to use context because there were words used in his time that meant something different today. No context does not define the word it helps determine which definition the writer is using. The dictionary still defines the word.
In recent years I've actually found small innocent words that have been sorely abused. Oh, sure by context you can figure out what the writer wanted to say. They merely slipped up and used the wrong word without looking up the meaning. It's only four letters so why would anyone look it up? Now there is the root of this whole problem. Some people simply do not want to use a dictionary for anything.
The question is: how did we reach a point where the so called professionals of reading and the help desk for writers have been allowed to lay claim to knowledge that readers don't like using the dictionary and that they have to be coddled into the understanding of the meaning of every word by its context and that no single word should actually encompass that context unless its such a simple small word that the simplest of readers might glean the meaning and the context without all the fuss of verification.
Yet to hear that someone would put a book down rather than constantly run to the dictionary makes me cringe. How many times have Poe, Dickens, Melville, Conrad, and Doyle, been cast aside for this very reason today? I still have my dictionary at hand whenever I read Charles Dickens. Might as well just burn Dumas and Cervantes.
The worst argument I have heard yet is that, for a new author, it is forbidden. If they want to become a well read author they must use simple words that everyone understands. Since they are not established as the authors mentioned above, they have no right to use outdated and long words that are mostly an obvious show of purple prose attempts to create great flourishing phrases that will stand out.
And, there might be some truth to that.
But, these same people who spout these truisms have time and again shown an unswerving inability to gain context of the material to even begin to determine what is and is not purple prose. Their method is: if it looks, smells, tastes, and sounds like purple prose then it must be. The ability to determine context seems to blow completely from their head.
Even the famous phrase such as "It was a dark and stormy night..." can have relevance. Of course it's often what follows that is determined to be Purplish. Sure they all recognize that one as purple prose. But, if something happened on that dark and stormy night that could never happen on any other sort of night, then what do you do?
The sky was devoid of light and there was a dearth of open space between the angry clouds. Even the few voids in the cloud mass seem belligerent with the occasional flashes and their cacophony of sounds like drum rolls. Behind that blackness was even greater darkness as the elements shed their frustration over the earth below. Coming ever closer ever faster towards revealing the many flaws in the very structure of the great Manor House.
I use a dictionary when I write. Often to check spelling sometimes to make sure of my definitions. If I have to look it up that could bode ill towards my reader. Should it stay or should it go. That depends on the context and how well it fits the structure of the writing. It should never be determined by how often I might send a reader on some mad dash to get that dictionary from under their bed or from off the pressed leaf collection.
It should never be decided by a quorum of "writers" who have determined that the readers are not smart enough or will be distracted if they have to look up a single word.
On the other hand the reader still may just toss the book aside because they really are lazy and indigent. That's just a risk you take- and obviously with all the unsolicited help out there one that need not be taken at all if you want to play it safe.
Copyright J.L. Dobias
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Being a frequenter of GoodReads.com I came across this gem of a book as The Nine Inch Bride. It was probably a title far from what would interest me. But, with goodreads I always get the free offers about three days too late and I expected that to be so with this book anyway. To my surprise I saw that it was offered for a much longer time than usual. The caveat being that I would have to write a review.
Being no stranger to the need for reviews I thought this was quite reasonable and download the book which it turns out is the first half of a whole, which has been split and is named Book one: Conundrum.(the first conundrum being that my copy calls itself the Stone of Conscience)
I must admit that the beginning of the book intrigued me. But as with some other readers it segued soon into something less bearable for a time. For me it was just that it was bit too morose with the downward spiral of the life of our protagonist. It's when the suspension of belief occurs that the story picks up pace again. So does our protagonist's life.
At this moment it is almost safe to say that one might wonder that the events that follow isn't just a fabrication of our protagonist. But slowly we get the notion that the fantastic has happened and it is all real. But, the most interesting and intriguing part of this portion of the novel is that it becomes almost a political science diatribe. Unfortunately it takes getting about half way through the book to get there.
It's worth the trip.
In some way the long political discussion borders on perhaps a intimation that this might be a commentary on socialism. The real and elusive never quite attainable socialism that lives only in philosophical discussions.
The character that delivers it runs their own gamut of potential - from angel to devil. They just draw the reader in with what seem like selfless acts- to what seem like intelligent conversation about current political failing in democracy - to a bit of an imp suggesting almost the unthinkable.
Ultimately we're led to believe the goal is to help the real and elusive never quite attainable democracy that lives only in philosophical discussions to finally come to full bloom. Something that possibly is being held back by circumstances of today's global economy and capitalism.
I mentioned socialism earlier because along the line there is a familiar thought mentioned about how once the system is allowed to purge itself- capitalism will dissipate or just sort of go away to make way for the true democracy. Our protagonist's new friend wants to help this process along.
I want to see how this works out for them, that means I will have to obtain the next half.
(Which might be named A Stone of Conscience.)
It's a shame the author is Anonym-ous but there seems to be a measure of paranoia in writing when simple names are misspelled deliberately to inadequately obfuscate the reference of whom they are speaking.
J.L. Dobias author of Cripple-Mode Series
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Murder on Michigan Avenue is not your average mystery.
It's also not your average LGBT novel.
It is a literary masterpiece that puts its author Jere Myles on par with other favorites of mine such as Hemingway.
Certainly there is a heap of murder within this trilogy. And a large mystery that unfolds to the reader. There is no doubt that the bulk of characters intersect or have lives that are bisected by gay and bi-sexual themes. Strangely, though this is not really just a mystery and certainly not an in your face LGBT novel.
This is a primer for a large discussion of an ever growing problem in the community of man. This is a story of love and how much our world today does to stifle anything related to it. The characters of Jon and Mieko and Eileen could be considered dysfunctional by many in the world because of their confusion of orientation. But, such a judgment would overlook the obvious. Their dysfunction is that they live in a world that has taught them to hold onto their love out of fear. Fear of rejection and fear of being misunderstood. The lives of these adults is only the tip of this iceberg. There is much more that is involved here. In these books we only see this piece. I wonder if Jere Myles will return to these characters and help explore the rest.
We have been carefully eroding love from society. If two close and old friends meet and hug and kiss. If they are women it may go unnoticed. If they are men it might raise eyebrows or more. We are taught from childhood onward that certain types of display of affection for members of the same sex are not appropriate. This of course in direct opposition to "Love thy neighbor as thy self." I'm talking about love here and not that sticky love/sex thing that people get hung up on.
Today we live in a world that is beginning to facilitate the denial of love of parent for children just out of fear of it appearing to be the wrong things to onlookers. We have even legislated ourselves to a point where protecting the young takes away a parents ability to reach out and lovingly care for their children. The lives of the people in these books is a mirror of the symptom of these problems. And it all goes much deeper. Because there are those who would point at these peoples lives and try to justify their problems with what they have chosen as a lifestyle while overlooking some fundamentals.
It's rather ironic since sex is more common to eating, sleeping, breathing, sensing. All pretty much autonomic responses. All at sometime necessary for continuing life. All at sometimes subject to subjective urges that go beyond the norm.
The shame is that society places Love as a lifestyle decision. Man was made to love whomever he chooses to love not whomever some lifestyle dictates. When a lifestyle chooses whom we love it restricts our ability to love to the fullest and that is definitely dysfunctional.
Yes. I suppose someone else could argue I took too much from these novels- but, I think not.
This book this trilogy is for everyone who's ready to handle it with a mature attitude.
For those who have read the other two- what are you waiting for?
For those who haven't- there is enough here to give you the full picture. But, I'd advise reading the other two.
J.L. Dobias author of Cripple-Mode Series.