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Dept. of Language

Beautiful, beautiful.

It seems odd to start posting again after days and days with someone else's words, but I ran across Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels on my shelf the other day and was reminded that reading his novel about the battle of Gettsyburg years ago was one of the most wonderful reading experiences of my life.

The novel is a masterpiece in my eyes - a piece written by a master - for several reasons, not least of which (oh, god, not least of which) is because he uses language in a way that made me fall in love with language all over again.

As I read The Killer Angels, its language did two things; it was sensually, cinematically, kinetically direct, throwing me into the world about which he wrote, wrapping it around me and making me unwilling to leave it.

Shaara's language also stood on its own, paragraphs built of sentences, built of phrases, built of words, braided into rhythms and patterns, put together so gorgeously that I read them over and over, independent of their meaning, because they were that lovely.

Love of a book is such an intensely personal thing, I know. This one, and its language, may leave many unimpressed. But part of the reason I write so slowly is, I think, because I am constantly aware that I would someday like to write as well as Michael Shaara did in The Killer Angels.

So I'll leave you with one passage. The first is very early in the book, from the point of view of a Southern spy, catching his first glimpse of the Army of the Potomac, 80,000 strong.

He rode into the dark of the woods and dismounted. He crawled upward on his belly over cool rocks out into the sunlight, and suddenly he was in the open and he could see for miles, and there was the whole vast army below him, filling the valley like a smoking river. It came out of a blue rainstorm in the east and overflowed the narrow valley road, coiling along a stream, narrowing and choking a white bridge, fading out in the yellowish dust of June but still visible on the farther road beyond the blue hills, spiked with flags and guidons like a great chopped bristly snake, the snake ending headless in a blue wall of summer rain,

This entry was originally posted at http://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/348457.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there or here; I watch both.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 28th, 2015 01:44 pm (UTC)
That is a beautiful paragraph - thanks for sharing! And there's nothing wrong in being in love with words.
Feb. 28th, 2015 04:24 pm (UTC)
And there's nothing wrong in being in love with words.

You're right; the one problem is when you become so enamored of them that you stand stock still in the middle of them, unable to choose which ones to use because they all look and feel so wonderful. Heh.
Feb. 28th, 2015 06:37 pm (UTC)
Ohhh, that is lovely! I can see why you adore this book so!

Feb. 28th, 2015 06:59 pm (UTC)
If you ever get a chance to read it, I'd love to hear what you think about it!

*hugs back - missed being around and talking to you!*
Mar. 5th, 2015 07:49 am (UTC)
God, this is gorgeous. ♥ *hugs*
Mar. 12th, 2015 10:25 pm (UTC)
It is, and the rest of the book is wonderful. You, too, are in love with words, in a way I can only guess at because I know only one language (despite actually speaking French almost before I could really speak English; I lost it very early as well) - you know and love words, and phrases, and how differently the concepts that words and phrases and grammatical rules combine to describe are from one language to another (and how language creates concepts and vice-versa). All of which is to remind me that I need to go and find the book you've most recently translated. Must hustle off to your journal to find the link ....
Mar. 19th, 2015 08:37 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's a shame about losing the French, I guess life doesn't always give you the right occasions. But yes, all of this. It's funny how I don't think about words in the same way for writing and for translating or languages, with writing it just feels much more personal, intricate and raw at the same time. It's a passionate love, whereas I have a deeply-rooted interest and curiosity for languages and translation, but it isn't quite the same. You don't quite create, in a way I guess you reconstruct something? It's also more rational. ;)

Ah, thank you for the interest, though that book is a bit of a… mmm, light romance? Definitely a light read. XD

Mar. 25th, 2015 05:10 pm (UTC)
It's funny how I don't think about words in the same way for writing and for translating or languages, with writing it just feels much more personal, intricate and raw at the same time.

I find that fascinating, actually; two different modes of thought for looking at language, depending on what you use the language for. Cool!
Mar. 31st, 2015 08:26 pm (UTC)
Language is full of layers! ^_^
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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