Monthly Archives: October 2016

Another Taste

Here’s another sample from upcoming novel, Only Words. Pretty See is an ancient village,  the first setting in the novel. Maegans Quick is the protagonist. The narrator is a chorus of words, self-organized, talk with no one talking. This is a story told by the words themselves – Only Words.

Suppose your life is  a story in which a made-up you acts in ways imagined by the real you. All the hurries, all the worries – all made up for the sake of diversion. Your real life is longer, more complex, but not so interesting. The real you, the one imagining all this, is enduring and substantial, but boring. How would you construct your amusement life? If it were possible to put aside your real life and move your experiencing to a fantasy, what story would you contrive?

With nothing real at risk, you’d make your life bold, entertaining. You’d go for broke, leave nothing on the field, throw caution to the wind. Wouldn’t you?

The happy truth is your life is imagined – it’s constrained not by what’s possible given your circumstances, but by what’s conceivable given your vocabulary. A man cannot construct a house without materials to fashion; he cannot fashion a rafter or bearing wall without knowing these words. A woman cannot nurture her children into the adults she would have them be without a stock of virtue words to instruct and teach. Can a person experience full happiness without knowing ebullience or delectation? We think not. At best a person so limited might attain joy or glee or some such lesser gaiety.

The sad truth is the same as the happy truth. You all live in a world made from the words in your head, nothing more. Your lives are narratives stitched together from the best words you can muster. You are, in fact, Maegans Quick of Pretty See; you all are.

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A Taste of Words

Here’s a sample from upcoming (early next year?) novel, Only Words. Narration throughout the work is done by the words – they speak themselves, so to speak. Words are, as you see below, somewhat full of themselves; Like Trump, they hyperbolize their importance.

In truth, the people of Varnis Bay acquired their characteristic halting speech centuries before when they took up imitating the faltering tongue of a much admired young man, Varnis, who saved scores from drowning during a freak storm. He braved dangerous flood waters in his fragile bark to ferry household after household to high ground. Varnis’s speech was defective due to a brain injury he suffered as an infant; his mother dropped him on his head. Residents of Varnis Bay – it was called something else then, a name lost to history – mimicked Varnis to honor him, a few at first, soon more, eventually everyone. For a time they blinked when they talked, once for each word, as was Varnis’s habit, but this proved to be onerous and the practice soon died out.

This example of halting enunciation illustrates the social nature of words and how easily and unintentionally human communities adopt speech patterns. This community shaping applies not only to enunciation, but also vocabulary, syntax preferences, pronunciation, all of it. Often behind these linguistic changes major social changes follow. In a few decades, language characteristics that take hold in the words of a few trendsetting individuals encompass a community, a region, a continent. The link from identifiable events in Varnis Bay to the speech patterns Maegans and Dragos discuss is palpable; other possible links remain speculative. For example, the optimism and good humor so prevailing at Pretty See is probably the consequence of a lullaby sung there centuries before Maegans’s time, a lullaby called ‘Sixteen words for Joy’ composed by a particularly happy nanny. “Frolic, glee, look at me; rapture, joy, here’s a new toy; merry and bliss my cheek kiss,” and so on. By Maegans’s time, residents of Pretty See know a dozen ways to be happy and only a few ways to be sad. And, what explains the dogged punctiliousness at Hagan Das? What explains the general decrease in hedonism and increase in self-denial at one travels up River Eisomrun? Is it any wonder Zoltan sought a bride from a community close to the mouth of the river at Varnis Bay?

You believe you choose your demeanor. Certainly, you react to circumstances and developments, but your personality is largely discretional, so you think. Yet, throughout your life, you learn what words come your way de rigueur. Who among you takes serious charge of what words inhabit his/her head? You complain when a catchy tune takes hold in your consciousness, a so-called ear-worm, and strive to drive it out by humming something else, but do you even notice when a beguiling word captures your fancy? No; you welcome the addition to your vocabulary and use the word as often as possible until you tire of it. “Use a word three times and it’s yours,” is the adage, but in truth, it’s the other way. Use a word three times and it takes up residency in your brain, now a part of the control structure there.

No man ever acted courageously who lacked the ability to recognize courage and call it by its proper name. Cowardice is an option only to those who know the words that go with it – fear, timidity, pusillanimity, and the rest – and what they mean. The same holds for self-control, wisdom, and justice, the other three golden virtues. For that matter, faith, hope, and charity, who round out the seven heavenly virtues, are no different. Parents hope to teach virtue by encouraging virtuous behavior and discouraging vicious, perhaps by setting an enlightening example, yet they you fail to understand they are teaching vocabulary, nothing more.

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