The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

When Authors Become Adjectified

By Andrew Tibbetts

Lately, I’ve been so caught up in writing stylish prose that I’ve lost sight of what I want to write about. There’s more to a writer than the kinds of sentences they craft. A writer has a particular set of themes, a milieu perhaps, a distinctive vision of the world. Writers I admire (William Gass, Barbara Gowdy) are often very skilled with language but writers I love (Kafka, Dickens) are like a country I itch to visit- the people, the places, the music, the sights, the smells, the local customs, the kind of things that typically happen there.

Here’s a thought experiment for you: which would feel more “Shakespearian”, a modern language version of “Hamlet” or a version of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” done in Elizabethan, iambic pentameter?

To Moscow on the morrow sisters, ho!
(aside) And yet methinks somehow we’ll never go.

(Anton, William, gentle readers, forgive me; that was truly terrible!)

Do I have a distinctive vision of the world? In a way, that’s a moot point; everyone has a distinctive vision of the world. That’s what lies at the heart of our unique personalities and actions.

Do I have a compelling way of turning that vision into literature? Well, of course, not yet! I’m just starting out.

But is that even a valid aim? Should I be aiming to compile a body of work that will give birth to a sensibility someone might call Tibbettsian? Hey did you see the new Soderberg film? It was really Tibbettsian! Cool! And speaking of Tibbettsian, you should have seen Stratford’s “MacBeth” last season! Almost as good as that final episode of the Simpsons- now THAT was Tibbettsian! (I’m going to have to change my name, aren’t I, gentle readers, if I want to father a sensibility?)

I look out my office window for a minute and a dozen Torontonians pass by. Only a couple stick in my mind though. A literal couple. A young redheaded man and a young blonde woman. Twenty-somethings. He had an all-over brush cut, i.e. his beard was the same length as the close-cropped hair on his head. And she had a kind of curly Shirley Temple mop-top. They were holding hands. Adorable. And they had masks on. Those paper ones on elastic straps. His strap clearly visible across the rusty bristles at the back of his head; hers, lost in sunny curls.

Some other writer looking out the window might have noticed different passers-by. But, something in what that couple stirred up in me, a combination of horror at the devastation of the world (sunny, smoggy, beautiful, toxic Toronto) and the resilience of love in the face of that horror, something about holding hands in hell, something about matching eco-protection kits, something about the intersection of what changes and what’s eternal, something about practicality- there’s something in that couple that speaks to my vision of the world. That’s the sort of thing that, maybe, if I can consistently conjure it up and effectively deploy it through the mesh of action and poetry that is a story, will signal the Tibbettsian in my writing.


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Adjectified -- love it! And don't change your name. Tibbetsian is mahvelous, dahling.

Wed Jul 09, 11:30:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tania Hershman said...

I love it, isn't that what we all want, to become our own adjective? Mine is a bit of a mouthful, Hershmanian... sounds like mania. Hmm, nice.... !

Thu Jul 10, 10:04:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

You'll get there someday, Andrew. I sure of it. Just keep looking out that window.

Fri Jul 11, 07:06:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger T. Lee said...

Tibbetsian sounds dignified. Can you imagine if your last name were Falstaff? Or... Lee. Leeian sounds like something the bank puts on your house. I'll never get adjectified, alas.

Mon Jul 14, 01:03:00 am GMT-4  

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