Somebody asked me once, when I was still writing for the newspaper, how it felt to write down to a fifth-grade reading level.
I didn't punch the guy for two reasons. One, he was a friend of a friend. Two, do you know me at all?
Now, I've got nothing against academics, post-modernists and other assorted eggheads, but, likewise, I've got nothing against readers. Writing in plain, everyday, accessible language isn't the cakewalk some might think. Especially when, as many newspaper reporters do, you deal with such enemies of clear language as politicians and public relations officers.
Roy Peter Clark tells us to use shorter words, sentences and paragraphs at the points of greatest complexity. We write because we have a desire to communicate. We've got something to say, and we hope somebody's gonna get it when we do.
That's why I can get behind the sentiment of Steven W. Beattie's essay from last year, "Fuck Books", if not the method of delivery. Beattie, along with Alex Good, got people talking about Canadian books this week with a pair of posts at the National Post's The Afterword blog. The overrated list filed similar complaints against the abuse of poetics in CanLit as Beattie's "Fuck Books" and, I don't know, is it open season on poets again?
I don't read enough CanLit to enter too deeply into the debate on this one, but I do worry all the fucking time that this novel I'm writing isn't CanLit enough, doesn't meditate lushly enough on a tableau of tapestries, either ironically or earnestly, doesn't distill through a fractured lens the frissons of post-colonial metaphors. And then sometimes I worry that it does all of these things just a little too much. Mostly, though, I remind myself how inadequately I've fared whenever I've tried to fit in. I remind myself of Herbie Popnecker, and what he told JFK. And I wage on.
mp3: "Liv Tyler" by Roadside Graves
mp3: "Everything" by Roadside Graves