I’m reading a book, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon; it was recommended by someone more learned than myself and it’s stunning.
From the Prologue it’s a page turner, with a promise of a story both intricate and intriguing and I just know I’m not going to be able to put it down.
The story is set against a backdrop of a sun soaked Barcelona in the 1930s and a boy introduced by his father to the secretive world of forgotten but adored second hand books.
It’s not simply stunning because of the historical setting, the mystical characters and the elaborate storyline. But more importantly because of the language used.
It’s not Pulitzer but the prose is classic and evocative, descriptive in a way that makes you marvel at the way the sentences are pulled together and leaves you just a little jealous not to have been born with such an amazing gift, the talent to bring a story to life, a story which literally stands on the page to play out in hologram form.
We work in the world of communications, where the written word is king but is also direct, edited and appropriate. We write for generations who consume in 140 characters and shorten the English language so it becomes an entity all on its own. We know the style is successful because it influences decisions, sells products and creates an ecosystem of word of mouth references that don’t recognise global boundaries.
But I wonder if we’re creating a generation of writers who believe the language I’m reading in this book is superfluous or even gratuitous. Where they believe the imagination should fill the spaces where an author like Zafon uses words to stimulate the senses. Are we apologetic for sounding ‘too well read’? Do we believe the audience that enjoys this type of narrative is unique and elitist?
Regardless of your editorial preference, whatever reading material encourages us to leave the world of always-on communications and escape to a place where we can think differently, be consistently challenged through the discovery of new places and new thinking and where we let our imagination do the talking, is surely the ultimate goal.