Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spivack, Evocative Writing, and Lamenting Literary Noise

I have been pondering lately the distinct pleasure afforded by evocative writing - one in which words are meticulously measured and artfully poised; in which the narrative is defined as much by what is absent rather than blatantly present; where characters are suggested, distinguished by a smattering of habitual behaviors or a particular physical attribute; where space and stillness exist between the lines, the cadence measured, thoughtful and precise. The evocative writer weaves a certain intuitive enchantment; fictional individuals are perceived through a glass darkly, with much of their internal selves concealed like the submerged leviathan detected only by the trajectory of its spout or a hidden rose garden that is intimated by a wafting fragrance.

Recently I lost myself in Kathleen Spivack's Unspeakable Things for which I wrote a review for Literary Fiction Book Review's March postings - so I do not wish to abscond with their literary thunder by duplicating content here - nevertheless, Spivack's novel was extraordinary. Her prose redolent with a deft lyricism, imbued with an almost smoky appeal. Juxtaposed against a subsequent read - the character and plot of which were elaborated upon in tedious detail, Spivack's gossamer eloquence among the literary ranks gleamed ever more brightly.

I think it is also a question of noise – literary noise. In this tech-driven age mobile gadgetry is perpetually at hand, becoming as firmly anchored to 21st century selves as any blood and bone limb, compromising dinner conversations, intruding upon quiet reflection and literary habits with insistent zings and beeps, insatiable in their demand for 'friends' and 'likes'. So I find it with writers that insist upon relating it all, delineating each movement of character – from stair to chair and back again – so that the resultant narrative is overburdened; the prose, predictable with momentum motivated by sequential mechanical action, becomes, at the literary end, stilted, robotic and, quite frankly, tedious. Just as we are inundated with the clang and clamor of environmental noise, riveted by the bombardment of tweets and posts, ceaselessly engaged with trending content (much of which is vacuous), so we are regaled by meaningless matter in books of this kind. And how much more potent and powerful is the implicit narrative!

These novels of quiet power, of space and stillness, of evocative suggestibility, they impart, in the sheer musical repose of finely crafted narrative, a literary restfulness. Spivack shifts with luminous ability between past and present, between the solidity of the corporeal world to the incandescent suggestibility of the spiritual one. Ghosts weave and wander, with sinuous ease, among the piping and the reader feels, like young Maria, the evocative drama of "unspeakable things"; not only referencing dark deeds of the nefarious Rasputin, but also the haunting power of this lovely literary work and the compelling resonance of all that is left unsaid, by character as well as author.