Sunday, October 18, 2009

Day 42 - Writers & Writing

It seems that since the start of this 365 day adventure, I've been voraciously reading fly fishing literature. Of course there are the classics (like Walton , Maclean & Holden) but also there are some new ones (Prosek, Black, & Gierach). And during this time, I've wondered what does it take to be an angler and a writer?

Most of the writers that I have been reading have been involved with fly fishing from their very youth. They grew up with a love of angling in their veins and have sought out quiet streams, legendary streams, and even unknown streams. When I measure myself up with these names, I fail to even to be a contender. I didn't learn to fly fish until I was in my mid-twenties. I've only fished a few well known streams (like Bois Brule in Wisconsin, the South Platte in Colorado, and recently the Davidson in North Carolina). Most of the streams I've fished are unknown by the general masses and are only known to the locals.

If that isn't enough when I read the works of Thomas McGuane, Ernest Hemingway, or even Thoreau, I wonder if I even speak the same language of these men. I just picked up the "The Longest Silence" by McGuane, and within the first few pages my eyes and mind are assaulted with words like: longueurs, arcana, Victorianism, and other tongue twisters. My mind starts to wonder how my education excluded words like these. I've graduated from graduate school, and so I think of myself as an educated man, but these words... they slip through my mental grasp and I'm left only shadows of their meaning thanks in part to the context of these words.

And so I ponder, what does it take to be a good writer? Do archaic words and run-on sentences make for good reading? What about vague references to historical writings? I wonder if these people actually talk the way that they write, and if so does anyone stop and go "huh?"

I'm given hope though, as I continue to read authors such as Gierach or mark Kingwell. Their works seem to be more honest writing. Now I know that wording might get me into trouble, but let's be honest these men write like they think or talk. Does McGuane really use these obviously arcane words in everyday use? Does he really think "longueurs" or does he think "gosh this passage is really long and boring?" He might...? But the rest of us who live in the real world wouldn't even consider such a phrase.

This brings about another question, does an expertly worded text (such as McGuane's book) constitute good reading if it confuses the reader? I'm not an English major, or for that matter an English minor, but I have to question the utility of such a book. (Yes I use words such as "utility" in my everyday language, you can thank my graduate work in business.) Maybe, I'm just more of a direct approach person. If so, does that make me a horrible writer?

Please don't get me wrong, when I can get past the confusing words and structure of McGuane's book, I really enjoy the stories. I just wonder why he chose some of the words that he chose, that's all. Maybe it gives that sense of poetry that we all aspire to have as anglers (which I feel leaks out into our cast, fly tying, and quiet times on the stream). If its poetry, then I need to work harder to broaden my vocabulary, as I to would like to express the poetry of this sport.

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