I subscribe to Wordsmith.org, a site that emails me a new word a day. Unlike other such sites I’ve seen, this one really does teach about new words and meanings, but the truth is that most days I simply cast my eyes over the words and definitions and go on to more pressing matters.
But today’s email — the word was keelhaul — made me sit up and pay attention to the horrors and hard edges of human history (still playing, last time I checked, out there in the world near you).
Which reminds me of something a character said in Season 5 of The Wire (which, yes, I think is the best TV show there ever was — watch it on DVD if you haven’t already). I wish I had the exact words, but I don’t, but in paraphrase: Gus, the (fictional) City Editor of (the real newspaper) The Baltimore Sun (got that?) says something like, “All I ever wanted to do was see something new every day and write about it.” I found that deeply touching. Just to see the unvarnished world without the ends tied up into a bow. And just to write about it. Not pretty, but new every day. Maybe that’s the secret. Just enough clarity to get you through the day… Which, come to think of it, sort of links back to my last post and Anne Lamott, doesn’t it?
Or anyway, enough clarity to understand a fascinating bit of literary history — like how the vampire icon entered English fiction. Hint: Lord Byron had something to do with it. And so did Dr. Frankenstein. And in a strange, tangential way, so did Jane Austen. I enjoyed writing this vampire post at History Hoydens today (actually, I’ve been enjoying a whole run of fun, informative, very well written posts there, as a reader as well as a writer). Come on over.
And since I’ve been writing about journalists — or at least journalists as played on TV — here’s one more tribute to David Foster Wallace, from a real journalist this time, Kevin Van Valkenburg, who, as it happens, really does write (about sports) for The Baltimore Sun. I like it because Wallace was an athlete (a teen tennis champ), and this focus on movement and the body adds so much to the picture of such a cerebral writer:
First he quotes Wallace:
Beauty is not the goal of competitive sports, but high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty. The relation is roughly that of courage to war.
The human beauty we’re talking about here is beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty. Its power and appeal are universal. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.
And then quotes another journalist, his colleague Childs Walker, on Wallace:
Writers check each other out. If you care about the work, you invariably become envious or just infuriated when another writer’s success far exceeds his or her talent. Others make you want to do what they do. And then there are those special few who make you think, “Crap, I could never do that, but I don’t care. I just want to read more.”
Wallace was one of those.
Yeah. But read the whole thing here.
And have a good weekend.