Sunday, February 27, 2011

I wish I could talk smart

When I'm writing, I'm generally pretty articulate, due in no small part to the ability to pause, think, then type whatever bit of nonsense is on my mind at the time. I can be picky with words. Words are important, and while I know a lot of them, I'm a little insecure with them. I want to be a hundred percent sure of a word's very most precise definition before I use it (I think that's why I admired The Road's vocabulary so much; Cormac McCarthy's language is eerily specific).

When I'm writing, I like to think of this as a talent. Generally I don't overstep my pathetic little shack of knowledge in the sprawling city that is the English language, and when I do, it is very carefully, usually with a friend, and I go equipped with only the very best anti-"You just made an ass of yourself" arsenal courtesy of the Oxford Dictionary.

When I'm speaking, it tends to be a problem.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not inarticulate (I hope). In fact, on some days I can get downright annoying (proven positive by several co-workers) in my attempt to keep expanding my vocabulary. You can never have too many words: never.

But other days my brain just completely shuts down. Or rather, my mouth does. I have all these really clever, salient things to say, and what comes out can often sound scarcely better than what might come out of a preschooler.

Example: The other day, I was trying to describe a scene in Amelie, and defaulted to the word "funnest" (which, I know, doesn't exist, or if it does, exists in a very shady back-alley of that city of language, one you wouldn't want to be lost in without a weapon or very large friend). Someone challenged me on it, and while mentally I was going "Yeah, absolutely.", what came out of my mouth was something like "Arg words hard today Matt not want."

I think it's because, when I think, I don't necessarily think in precise language so much as big nebulous clouds of vaguely connected intuitive bubbles. Which sounds ridiculous now that it's written down, but there you have it.

I'm not sure why I wrote this, except maybe as a brief apology for any time when I've ever A) started rambling incoherently or B) reduced to some kind of caveman-like grunting in the middle of conversation.

By the way, did you know what a "catamite" is? Me neither, 'till I read The Road. Apparently it's a young child in a relationship with an older man.

Seriously, McCarthy, now you're just showing off. We all get how smart you are.

Friday, February 4, 2011

To fantasy readers of the world, I implore you:


About a couple years ago, I began reading George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, mostly because I'd heard so damn much about it and honestly, it sounded really cool. What I didn't expect was that it would become one of my favorite series of all time, and whenever I'm asked to think of my favorite book, A Storm of Swords very nearly always comes out on top. I was a little disheartened when I learned of all the delays associated with A Dance of Dragons (or is it for Dragons? I can never keep that straight), but I trusted that Martin, literary genius that he is, knew what he was doing and would deliver a dependably fantastic book. This belief was emboldened by the fact that Dragons would contain all my favorite characters (particularly Daenerys).

Then, around last year, I read the newer Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, which was honestly one of the best fantasy books I've read in years, and I like to think of myself as fairly well-read when it comes to fantasy. After I'd read Name of the Wind, I got it in my head that I'd start reading Mr. Rothfuss' blog--and also Martin's--so I could maybe hear about the progress of the books, and get a bit of insight into the minds of the guys creating books that make me all but salivate with geeky delight.

Their blogs, naturally, were well-written, insightful, often endlessly amusing, and in the strange case of Martin, gave me a rough understanding of football. Honestly, I didn't mind that I wasn't likely to get a new book in either of their series for a while: the blogs were fun to read, and certainly helped me keep in touch with the stories I'd so enjoyed.

Around this time, all but basking in sheer rays of nerdjoy, I started reading the comments section of their blogs, which directed me to think what the bleeding hell?

I guess I had expected fantasy fans to rise above the bullcrap drivel you find on the internet, but half of the people who comment on blogs like Martin's or Rothfuss' act as though they own the author. I was particularly struck by this comment, from Rothfuss' blog:

You totally deserve that blurb.
Ready for vacation? Well after you did all the signing :D and visited all your fans and published book 3 :D hah

Um, no, go screw yourself. The dude has a girlfriend and a baby kid. He might want to address those minor distractions for a few moments before cloistering himself away to finish the Kingkiller Chronicle.

Seriously, what the hell is so hard to get about the sentence that fantasy authors owe their readers nothing. They wrote the book, got it published. You bought it, endorsed their product by way of paying, and then enjoyed a story. That is the relationship between the author and the reader. Anything else is window-dressing done purely out of the kindness of the author's heart, or his/her desire to get some more publicity for it. Either way, it doesn't elevate you to some sick status of ownership over an author.

I had really salient, reasoned-out points to make, but they kind of evaporated in a fit of righteous anger, so for now, this is what I'm posting.

Have a good one. Unless you think authors forfeit their souls to their readers. In which case go join an asshole commune or something.