beauty

After considering that narcissism has no place in creating fiction, the question is, what does? That brings me to beauty. A friend has spent most of the summer in the hospital – details aren’t important – they need their privacy. However, among the visitors while I was there last week were a couple of lovely young women who sang the Beatles’ song, In My Life in harmony. We heard later that nearly everything on the floor stopped for those few minutes as people listened. Nurses, orderlies, other patients, visitors were taken out of their daily problems with those moments of beauty. I think we’ve largely lost sight of that in our art, music and literature. John Keats famously ended his Ode to a Grecian Urn with, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

But what happens when truth becomes relative?  Apparently Beauty as a consideration disappears, but we still yearn for it, search for it and appreciate it when it does appear. And by Beauty I don’t mean merely pretty. Real beauty is evocative. It allows you to see anew. It lingers. It is refreshing.

There are still writers working who use moments of beauty or lovely language in their writing. Denis Johnson comes to mind. For most writers (well, good writers) language itself is important and part of the craft is creating beautiful sentences, reiterating imagery and themes in various ways. Jesus’ Son is one of the best examples and it’s achieved by looking very closely and then not settling for the first cliche that comes to mind. Instead, “The jolt of fear burned all the red out of my blood.” or “Midwestern clouds like great grey brains…” (those are mammatus clouds in the thumbnail above) Stop and consider beauty, even (especially) that which is unconventional, and you might create images that stick with your reader.

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