Saturday, February 07, 2009


Since I've been on nursing duty for the last month, I haven't been able to get to the library or bookstore and replenish my bedside pile of reading.  So, I asked my friend Beckie, who is a reader extraordinaire and one of the most literate people I know, if she had something lying around the house that she would be willing to lend me until I'm back in circulation.  

Oh, the books she brought me!  I haven't had time to read at my usual rate, so I've only gotten through three of the novels, but oh, my!  Only one of the three is a mystery; Literary Murder, by Batya Gur, which is set in modern Israel.  The other two are Walking Across Egypt, by Clyde Edgerton, which is set in North Carolina and has nothing to do with Egypt; and The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, which takes place in Nazi Germany.

One wonderful thing that these three books have in common is their beautiful and appropriate use of style and language, qualities that lift a story out of the ordinary, as far as I'm concerned.  

I think sometimes that writing is very much like singing.  For some singers, their own voices are the most important element of the performance, and the song is simply a vehicle to show off their virtuosity.  For other singers, their delivery is secondary to the song itself, and though their voices are beautiful, they don’t purposely draw attention to them with all kinds of vocal gymnastics.

Both styles of singing are wonderful.  I love to listen to a beautiful voice.  It almost doesn’t matter what Maria Callas sings since her voice is so gorgeous.  Same with Sinatra.  His voice and delivery transcend the material.  

Sometimes, however, the song, or the story itself, is so beautiful that a true artist will step out of the way and deliver the music or the words in a plain and straightforward style and let the material speak for itself.


Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

Well said, Donis. I like how you've compared writing styles to singing. I tend to like the artist to step aside and let the story or song take precedence, but perhaps that's a personal preference. Wonder how other people feel about this?

Donis Casey said...

I do, too, Debby. Yet, when I'm writing, I am always very tempted to do some stylistic gymnastics myself. It takes a lot of discipline to be straightforward. Do you suppose it's ego to want to show off your abilities?