April 28, 2005

I Couldn't Have Said It Better

I have a professional’s arrogance about my skill with words, and I’m ready to feel envy -- as well as admiration -- when faced with evidence that someone might be better at it than I am. (For an example, see the quotes from Mark Helprin in this recent AmbivaBlog post.) One of the healthy, surprising things the blogosphere has done for me has been to immunize me against the envy. There are too many skillful, insightful writers out there, sharing their thoughts freely without material reward, for me to have time anymore for that debilitating emotion. Good writing, like consciousness, is all around me, not just inside my head.

Since I have nothing special of my own to say this morning, I thought I might point you toward some examples of blog posts (and comments, too) that have made me think, “I couldn’t have said that particular thing any better than this writer has said it.” I haven’t ranged out of my way to find them – they’re all from people I read regularly – but that goes to show how much talent exists even in one tiny corner of the blogosphere.

Alicia Bourassa, at Behind Glass, has a wonderful story in 19 tiny chapters about the soul–making of an artist from childhood to maturity: HOW TO BE A SENSITIVE, TRAGICALLY MISUNDERSTOOD, POETRY-WRITING WOMAN-CHILD. I think this is a beautiful piece of work. Alicia says that unlike the pieces she struggles over, she just tossed this one off and wasn’t sure of it. That’s a sign of true inspiration.

Stepping Stone, a young schoolteacher from Amba’s family, has a funny and empathetic vignette about the Chicago water stain that was recently adored as a manifestation of the Virgin Mary: OUR LADY OF THE UNDERPASS.

In our British contingent, Jean at This Too writes a loving and lovely memoir of a healing vacation on a French dairy farm: LA LAITIERE.

One of my earliest and most frequent commenters was Jeffrey Hull, who put a series of well–crafted traditional poems on my posts. His poems can now be found on his self–named blog. One of my favorites among them is THE BEES. I think it’s a nearly perfect descriptive poem in an unabashedly old–fashioned style. It reminds me of Emerson’s statement, “Beauty is its own excuse for being.”

A new frequent commenter, Simon Kenton, put two comments on a recent post of mine about a toad: one in prose and one in verse. I want to call particular attention to the prose comment, a first–rate piece of nature writing in a highly compressed form. Scroll down to the comment beginning, “The little red–spotted toad (Bufo punctatus)...”

Nappy Forty, who used to be secretive, has decided from some inner or outer prompting to list 100 things about herself, counting down from 100. When she reached the 70s something funny happened: a list of personal traits turned into a numbered rant about a ruined duck dinner. Form and content work together perfectly here to create social comedy. And although SATURDAY NIGHT has the feel of a found poem, the fact that it’s been consciously crafted is shown by her remark (in the comments) that the dinner in reality wasn’t that bad.

Amba, at AmbivaBlog, is the ringer in the group: she’s a pro from way back. But what the heck, she’s a blogger too, and I get enormous pleasure and instruction from her posts on everything from how acupuncture works to what the latest photos from space look like. I especially admire her gift for metaphor. In TOO FAST, notice how many metaphors and similes she uses to describe the budding of trees in New York’s Washington Square Park. Every one of them is fresh and striking; every one of them adds meaning. Like most good descriptions, this one says as much about the describer as about the thing described.

Last but not least, there’s Althouse. I keep wondering how Ann got to be such a good writer. It certainly wasn’t any of my doing, except maybe as an inner antagonist, a nemesis to be overcome. Her writing isn’t “literary,” it combines the best qualities of a breezily serious newspaper column and of a superb professor’s classroom talk. Wit, ranging from the girlishly faux–flighty to the scalpel–keen, and intellectual rigor are blended perfectly as Ann strives to drag the blogosphere kicking and screaming into the realm of reason. I think she’s at her best when mocking the pretensions of pundits, celebrities, and mighty, or wannabe-mighty, institutions. In THE "RIGHT" TO CHANGE THE PLEDGE?, her thinking takes the form of a reverie about a Socratic classroom dialogue – a law professor’s reverie if there ever was one.

I hope you enjoy reading these! As with everything I do, there’s nothing systematic about the list I could have found a lot more, these are just the ones I happened to think of. For more well–written blog posts, check out Carnival of the Vanities #136, currently up at John C. A. Bambanek’s site. My post SLIDING DOOR MOMENTS: THE DEAD ON THE CORNER is there among many others, but you’ve already read that, haven’t you?