Together since the world began; the madman and the lover.
I found those words in the pre-pages of The Doors biography I read when I was fifteen. Those words spoke to me then. I knew what it meant to be mad and in love. This is what fifteen-year-old girls know.
These words placed together so perfectly, with the wedge of semi-colon connecting the two halves, seemed to be the only thing one needed to know in life. These words were my initiation into an altered state of being. The craziness meant something. These words brought comfort to my achy heart and turned my embarrassing desperation into poetry.
Language is like that. Language has the power to transform darkness to light.
Words can comfort and soothe. Words can make it better. Words have such power.
There are so many things that I could say about language – I think about it a lot – I work with it every day, it is my bread and also my butter. But it’s more than that.
Language is such a gift and I happen to be one gal who’s truly madly deeply in love with language. Well, English mainly. I have a major crush on English. I apologise to all the other languages out there but I’m sure you feel the same about your first love. English – it’s been inside of me the longest. Plus, it has that bulging load of words that’s way bigger than all the rest. It has one million words and counting – are you impressed?
But anyway, I’m not here to brag. I’m here to express my total adoration.
First, a word about the brilliance of punctuation; it is so easily forgotten but is just as helpful and meaningful in communication. I love the way the semi-colon builds a bridge and connects thoughts between two sentences that would otherwise be fully-stopped and cut off and I love the suggestiveness of the dot dot dot. It adds mystery, like there’s more to be said, like I’m not telling you everything. It’s the black bra under the white t-shirt…
I like the under-use of the exclamation mark. It adds dryness and subtlety to one’s words. Try it, you might like it.
Yes, I am a fully attached to this lovely language. I collect fine words and flawless sentences. Like the following from Miranda July’s collection of short-stories, No one belongs here more than you. The main character is describing a scene at her therapists where she’s been crying.
Ruth hands me a Kleenex box and our time is up. I half blow my nose, waiting till I get outside to do the full blow.
The full blow! What a freaking genius!!
I love things that are profound in their observation of miniscule fragments of the everyday. Like, the full blow – how true is that! But no one else thought to mention it.
Probably she thought up this term having a funny conversation late night at a party. It reminds me of something my friend Nic Maher might say. We’d have a whole conversation about the full blow.
It’s not only in literature that I appreciate an original turn of phrase. It’s just as special in conversation with the oomph of emotion or dryness of those people who are just incredibly funny and can get their words out without cracking up at their own jokes. I admire this very much.
(I laugh at my own jokes just as soon as I realise the other person finds it funny. Then, I really let my laugher loose)
Now, I must admit that Italian seems to be a fun language to play with, and especially to swear with, but we’ll save that for another time. I am a faithful lover.
When reading, I like to note down beautiful passages that speak to me. I save them for later to savour. With No one belongs here more than you, there was a point when I thought I might as well copy down the whole book. Every word was in its rightful place. Every line was brilliant.
This was another part noted down, about a couple on the verge of break-up.
The drive home was long and sealed in a drowning silence. Walking across the front lawn, Carl stopped to recoil the hose that I had left out the day before.
My immediate thoughts :
Recoil – what a great word.
Sealed in a drowning silence – the end of a relationship, I know that silence. But life goes on. Even through one’s misery there are still hoses to be recoiled. We have to keep up with the every day. Life goes on.
Miranda July sure does know us humans.
And She left the hose out. Miranda can say so much without spelling it out. It is more poignant to not say everything, that’s what I’m learning. The words you include have more meaning that way.
Another book I love is The Virgin Suicides,
It was Tuesday and she smelt of furniture polish.
This feels to me like the greatest truth ever told. Why is that?
There was music from my neighbour’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and women came and went like moths amongst the champagne and whisperings and the stars.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
I never knew that one day I’d appreciate imagery and be able to speak of it as if I were reciting pages of Cliffs notes. The way I chattered my way through high-school, my literature teachers probably would have voted me ‘least likely’. But then, I like to think I didn’t peak in high-school.
I never knew I’d be such a seeker of fine cunning linguists.
(Allow me one bad joke)
I never knew there was such pleasure to be had in putting words together in new ways, untangling clichés, creating life on the page.
I never knew that words would come to me when I was alone. I never knew that words would be my home.