The extraterrestrial has moved from the gardener to the blogger. If the gardener baffled, the blogger bewilders. Once again the Human Ambassador is summoned.
ET: Why is the blogger frustrated and unhappy?
HA: She feels pressure to remove some favorite things from her writing.
ET: What things?
HA: Words. Rich and lovely words. Words full of texture and life which she has been collecting since childhood. You see, she has been advised that her writing is inaccessible.
ET: Inaccessible? Explain, please.
HA: Not everybody will enjoy or understand her if she uses the words she yearns to. She finds herself therefore practicing a form of literary self-mutilation which is intensely painful.
ET: But this is illogical. What if the intelligence levels vary in the human? They do, don’t they?
HA: Rumor has it. But no blogger wishes to post into a vacuum.
ET: Ah yes, the black hole. I’m familiar with it, you know. But tell me, if a reader encounters a word with which he is not familiar, are there not ways to define it?
HA: Of course. In a matter of seconds, actually, the word can be defined and pronounced. In all of our languages.
ET: Why you have so many languages and a metric system are still beyond my understanding, but I digress. So let me get this straight. The writer, in order to attain a wider readership, feels it necessary to strip the work of linguistic power and beauty by reducing it to a more facile and spineless version of its former self?
ET: And do you not see the parallels in this type of thinking with the decline of the Mediocrian people in the neighboring galaxy?
HA: Excuse me?
ET: Oh, never mind. A sudden surge of melancholy has me in its grip.
HA: You mean you feel bad?
ET: Look it up, will you?
It’s obvious where I fall in the discussions swirling about the blogosphere lately on using “big” words in our writing. I first read of it on Carrie Rubin’s blog. She’d been urged to remove the dastardly “fugue” from a novel she’s writing as it slows the reader down too much, evidently, to be confronted with an unconventional word. Sigh.
There’s plenty of room for all of us and our writing styles on the blogosphere. From poetry to pâte à choux, blogs vary as widely as we do ourselves. Some of us are just looking to have a good time posting our daily doings in a casual and loose format. Groovy.
But some of us are in danger of hiding our light under a bushel.
There’s a term in real estate development: highest and best use. The writer who deliberately guts his work in hopes of attracting more readers is like the developer who builds a faceless storage unit on a prime piece of waterfront acreage. The highest and best use potential is forever vanished.
Worse, if our writing becomes flat and tame, we will lose the lovely “self-annihilation” which author Ian McEwan described as the sensation of sinking into words and leaving oneself behind, wallowing blissfully in it all.
I’d miss that terribly, wouldn’t you?
My writing hero, Mr. P.G. Wodehouse, presumed his reader was equal to his own mental agility. I can picture his arched brow and icy gaze at the very idea of making Blandings blander. What ho! Rubbish.
Were old Plum to have tried, unfathomably, to make his writing more universal, we would be left with this atrocity:
Like most American rich guys, he married a lot, going from one girl to another like a mountain goat jumping from rock to rock.
Compare that to this sublime version which cannot be read without the highest admiration for the magic seeping from his pen:
Like so many substantial citizens of America, he had married young and kept on marrying, springing from blonde to blonde like the chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag.
Mountain goat? Accessible and painfully mediocre. Chamois? Deliciously and perfectly inaccessible.
Thank you for reading,