15 December 2013

beautiful writing

What makes something beautiful? Is there a universal standard, a formula whereby something is or is not beautiful? Would a strong philosophy of aesthetics be able to be broad enough to include the vagaries of taste and yet narrow enough to make a statement on what is aesthetically good?

Beauty is so often a case for opinion that I fear that this topic is doomed to drive me insane. Additionally, the idea of good vs. bad (or perhaps better vs. worse) is a hard one to manage in a post-modern philosophy (which, of course, makes it all the more of a challenge). A while ago, in a book on semiotics, the author (Floyd Merrell, Sensing Corporeally, 2003) mentioned in passing that there's a lack of semiotic literature handling aesthetics (he's written a number of books that would probably address this topic in more detail than he did in that one, but I don't currently have access to them so I can't check). I immediately became curious. Semiotics fascinates me, and the idea of combining that with aesthetics just sounded like fun. Complicated, but fun. I'm still in the extremely early stages, though, so I've no idea where I'll end up.

If I'm working with my own sense of aesthetics as a guide, I'll find that when it comes to writing, I'm just a novice. I am not yet a creator of beautiful writing, based on my own standards. There is a difference between good writing and beautiful writing. By my own definition, I am a good writer (when I am not lazy), but beautiful writing is a separate plane. I can communicate effectively, with reasonable concision, and am even capable of decent metaphorical expression, but I've yet to get to that higher standard.

When I read books where the author says something well, in such a fashion that I am riveted to the page, and cannot stop thinking over what I have read, I think of that as beautiful writing. I've encountered beautiful writing in fiction (both for children and adults), in non-fiction, and even in fan fiction (yes, I read fan fiction, because I am a geek and a storyteller, and the combination of the two takes me to interesting places). I've found it in Augustine's Confessions ("Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new..."), in Northrop Frye's work, in the works of Charles Sanders Peirce, and in Rosemary Wells' Bunny Planet trilogy. There is an ineffable quality to the writing, the ideas, and the stories in these works which captivates me and fires my imagination.

And I wish I could become a writer of that caliber. Oh, I wish. So I write. I practice, and I hope. Perhaps someday, I will make beautiful writing.

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