The English language is fraught with delightful words and ways of stringing a sentence together. It’s a great language – a full and fun language – and can be a neat hobby. In a thick Clairefontaine notebook I like writing words, and the way they were used in a particular sentence in a book.
The word miasma, e.g., has a completely different meaning than what I had thought. I’m glad I never had occasion to use it. It’s a pretty-sounding word, isn’t it? I’m also glad that I looked up its meaning on www.dictionary.com for it states: “mi as ma 1. Noxious exhalations from putrescent organic matter poisonous effluvia or germs polluting the atmosphere.” Somewhere along my life’s journey the word miasma became unclear in its meaning.
This past 4th July holiday Sumi and I got to talking about books. She asked what I thought of the one she gave me a month ago. And I had to say that I was confused after reading the first two pages, and returned it to the shelf. She said, keep reading it; it’s a really good story and it’s well-written, and yes, the first few pages are somewhat confusing. She said she really liked the way the author uses words. So when Sumi and I went to Barnes & Noble the following day, I recognized the depth of her enjoyment of “the post-birthday world” when she saw the book on one of the tables Barnes & Noble places around its store. She smiled and pointed to it, and what I saw on her face was a remembering of the pure enjoyment she had in reading it. And she said that one day she’d read it again, just not yet. It’s then that I realized that Sumi wasn’t ever going to get tired of asking whether I’ve read that book. With that in mind, when I finish reading Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes I’ll gladly give “the post birthday world” by Lionel Shriver a whirl.
Annie Hawes also has a way with words. I find Extra Virgin plodding, but in a way I don’t at all mind. The words, the flow of sentences, is delicious, as is the writer’s description of just about everything before her.
Now Sumi read Empire Falls by Richard Russo, but didn’t see the made for tv movie. I saw the movie, but didn’t read the book. One day she said, “This book is very good, mom, do you want to read it? You’ll like it.” I said, “No, I don’t like reading a book after I’ve watched a movie based on it.” She said, “Well, take the book.” I did. The next time, and a few other times, Sumi asked, “Did you read Empire Falls, mom?” I hesitatinghly replied, “No, not yet.” Soon after that conversation, I got the book off its shelf and began to read it. Lo and behold, it was so well-written and engrossing that, in no time at all, I’d read it. And so, I ask myself, where did, “I don’t like reading a book after I’ve watched a movie based on it” come from? Empire Falls – wonderful reading.
A writer who uses words not commonly used, or words that delight the senses and make a reader want to stop and write them in a notebook for future use, or uses words that open a new way of understanding and appreciating a language, who expresses thoughts that the reader feels on different levels, and, at the same time, creates a great story, is a writer whose book will be appreciated for a long time after the book is read.