Monday, September 1, 2008

Ease & Oblique

There are several different sorts of people in the world. Victor Hugo taught us that there were at least five. But out of these several I observe two primary categories, which don't have any definite name necessarily, but they could generally be labeled as: Nuanced and One Dimensional. If you find yourself in the nuanced category (all of life really resides in this category, only tragically, many don't realize it) you are likely sore beyond belief in your general appraisal of society, and peppered with riotous moments of joy and painfully good humor. If however you find yourself in the One Dimensional category, well, life is a peach, except for when it is not. This sort of sunny disposition is often praised by religious types who take it as sure sign of peaceful, God-induced harmony, made possible by utter submission.
There are two authors who plainly represent for me these two sides of life, and each of them, in my experience, has routinely, if overly, used a word in their respective writing that gives their temperment away: John Grisham - ease. J.D. Salinger - oblique.
Early on in my reading career I devoured the novels of J. G., these easy tails of intrigue and witty turns of plot made for enjoyable reading, until that is, I discovered the word that was used to distraction: Ease. I began underlining it with red ink. I routinely found the word within four or five pages of the last use. Every character was easing in or out of this or that room. Easing into this or that chair. It became intolerable, and probably ten or more years ago I put down a half-finished J.G. novel out of exasperation with the word that had become a nauseating presence. This was fortuitous, and is probably the same sort of reason that drives all who read better writing than pulp fiction onto better authors and their titles. It is not so much that we aspire to anything more, but out of necessity if we are to maintain reading as a hobby and also value our sanity to any measurable degree. So off I went to explore authors beyond the likes of Grisham. In so doing I realized a world of writing awaited me that loomed large, something like the high mountains climbers from the East coast find when they come out to climb in the West. These ranges were heretofore unexplored for me, as my high school education wasn't exactly rigorous or inspired beyond the thin writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald and other thin works deemed manageable for our teenage middle-class mainstream intellects. For the first time I confronted authors such as Herman Melville, Dostoevsky and Salinger and along with him, the word oblique.