As I age, I am tempted again and again – pardon me if I have repeated this many times- to simple writing.
I want to use smaller sentences. I want to be clearer in my ideas. I want a certain fluidity in writing that sheds the unnecessary. The art of writing in simple and stacked sentences, building on ideas and themes, and slowly exploring a thought is satisfying. In fact, sometimes I wonder if this isn’t a better way to tell a story.
Ever since I realized this, I notice how many of us employ words for the love of it. I cannot say I grudge them their indulgence. It is as satisfying to string together complex thoughts in beautifully ornate passages. It is just that I am at a phase, where I read to appreciate the content more than the style. This rather utilitarian view might be the reason I do not read poetry.
This also might come across as reductionist and ascetic, especially in storytelling. Aren’t stories as much about how you tell them, as much as what you say? Isn’t style an important factor that adds to the joy of reading literature?
Without a doubt, yes. In fact, one could even argue that, without style, storytelling does not elevate to art. No one can deny the masters their sense of aesthetics. The soul achieved in their works, those that we call masterpieces, captures this balance. They have it all in the right place, right form, delicately latticed, such that when someone reads their words, the whole literary edifice, is as supremely moving, as it is fascinating up close.
This sense of style and beauty is refined. I do not think I use the word refined in a cultured context. I believe they come from a deeper sense of understanding of life. Sometimes, a human glimpses a truth in all it’s seductive glory. Such radiant beauties, revelations even, spark a need to communicate. By writing it down, by distilling that elusive idea into a communicable medium as much as possible, aren’t they wanting not only to capture but also be associated with the hunt of the idea? I believe that is why many great minds have been compelled to return to recurrent themes, explored either by themselves or by others before them. This periodic return to a theme treated ever differently by the seekers, shapes and reshapes an idea infinitely, giving humanity a blurred image of even hard truths. Some artists see style itself as the differentiator. Some see substance as the core. Sometimes it is the very resurfacing of ideas that have been supplanted by other ones that adds to the reason why art makes an impact. I do not know if these contexts can be learned, or taught, or cultivated. In that sense, this refinement is not one that is exclusive to the rich.
But it cannot also be denied that literature, among arts, is a rich indulgence. Who knows how many truths have been glimpsed by those who were unable to communicate it to the world. Their truths are not stylistic. Their truths remain wordless within themselves, glinting and shining, as a formless embryo. When they come out, if they come out, the form they take is art. Words, sounds, forms, shapes, are all vehicles of these ideas that communicate that core, trying to trap and transfer the emotions from inside the human onto the medium of reception.
I’ve always wondered at the way art manifests itself. The core emotion, even when same, results in varied expressions as sculptures, paintings or literary works. A symphony could have been an unwritten book; a sculpture could be a missed painting, and so on. Maybe, this arbitrarily externalized form of a core, one that can be all too captivating, is the reason why I distrust style over content. If we are so dazzled by the style can we look beyond it? What then are we looking at? Is it the form? When does the form merge into what the form is supposed to convey? Did the creator realize the essence before, during or after the process of creation?
In this way, art’s, and therefore literature’s too, journey of existence scintillatingly defies an answer, demanding respect for its shimmering beauty. Like every truth recurrently produces art that revolves around it in various interpretations, every single piece of art includes infinite themes surrounding it.
The style is easier to capture and describe. Scholarly. Sometimes majestic, sometimes minutely intricate. But what of the core?