Saturday, July 27, 2013

Words and Music, Part 2.

About time to get back to this, don'tcha think, o two or three followers of this mighty blog? By the way, and in keeping with the idea that great writing must be heard in the head to be appreciated, I've stumbled upon a book I can only read at about thirty pages per hour. Because it is mostly dialogue, and quite adversing dialogue at that. William Gaddis' JR is worth the time spent on the stage of the brain. On the other hand, I just got through an audiobook that was so bad that it dragged and was loathsome even played at double time. Not something I wanted in my head, but I futilely hoped the main character would be horribly killed to death before the end. No such luck.

So where am I going with this idea of listening to writing? Straight to Ireland. I mentioned James Joyce's Ulysses in our first installment of this idyll, because I experienced something reading that book for the first time that I had never experienced before. I loved it, was struck by the language, but could not tell you why. I loved it even when I did not understand it. There is poetry in that book, but it took me some time to realize that there is music there.

Ireland is a place of poetry and music. They ain't had it easy and everybody knows it. Yeats, Irish himself, said, "Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart," and yet in Ireland it hasn't. It hasn't crushed them, or their poetry, or their prose, or their music. And I claim that you can hear music in their language, spoken or written.

I think if you put an Irish writer in a functional MRI there's a pretty fair chance that a chunk of their language center will be on the right side of the brain. This is true of the Japanese, possessors of their own beautiful language and spectacular poetic and prose traditions, home to the oldest novel in human history. They keep their vowels on the right side of the brain. I think the Irish, like the Japanese, keep part of their language where the rest of us try to hold on to music.

That is a huge part of great writing. The writers aren't merely writing language. They are also writing music, and we are dazzled by the tune.

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