Wednesday, October 17, 2007

On Writing . . .Well, Sort of . . .

I finally got around to reading Fahrenheit 451, the classic by Ray Bradbury. About half way through I came across this passage spoken by the character named Faber:

"The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a
quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies."



I haven't quite gleaned the full truth or scope of this quote, yet. -- But I love it.

11 comments:

Nicole said...

Whoa. Harsh. Powerful.

Jerry Pat Bolton said...

How about this: Good writers aren't afraid of gettin messy . . .
Mediocre writers touch life, but quickly removes their hand from it . . .
Bad writers fantasize life to the extent that the white picket fence is the wherewithal (in the literary sense) . . .
Then again, whadda I know? LOL

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

You may be on to something, Jerry. I didn't think of it that way.

I'm still trying to figure out exactly what the Bradbury character quote means.

I'm still not 100% sure why I like it.

Jerry Pat Bolton said...

Aw, you know I only said the same thing he did, just my way . . . You like it because it tells you to five your story your all . . .

Kay said...

I just picked that book up yesterday. I haven't ever read it, either, but I enjoy his short stories.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

I'm a little lax when it comes to the classics, Kay.

I finally read To Kill A Mockingbird a few months ago.

Janet Rubin said...

cool. I think it means the good writers write stuff that resonates because it is so real and true. they capture emotions and deep truths we recognize as part of our own struggles/experiences. they "touch" life often. Mediocre is probably me... trying, hitting it dead on sometimes, but still need to develope that depth. bad ones, exploit...whip out stories, not doing justice to the emotions surrounding a birth, a death, a romance. they speak of things miraculous or evil (sex, murder, salvation) without skill, without respect or truth. just telling for telling's sake, not to move the soul.
or maybe i'm all wrong. it was fun to think about though.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Well put, Janet. I've been trying to come up with my own interpretation, but I couldn't find Jerry's succinctness or your clarity.

I must be having an off day. :) So thanks to both of you.

Anonymous said...

I love this book, and discussing it, so I hope you'll forgive this long comment.

Taken in context, I think this particular passage is saying something about how good art should say something important about real life.

"Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You'd find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more 'literary' you are. That's my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies."

The progression here, it seems to me, is from greater to lesser--Good=deals with life issues frequently and accurately; Mediocre=deals with life issues only on a cursory level; Bad=only takes from life (rapes her) but does not put this life experience on the page (leaves her for the flies).

In other words, good writing will stand up under examination and be found to have layers of meaning readers can relate to. Bad writing is self-serving and shallow, lacking any depth or insight readers can learn from.

Just my interpretation. I also love the passage that follows.

"So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. We're living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam."

Christopher Fisher

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

No need to apologize, Christopher. Discuss and comment away.

I see your point about context of the story.

They burned the books so that no one would be tempted to think beyond the surface of life. Happiness comes from being blissfully ignorant. Why tax your mind when the answers are given to you.

Montag saw meaning in the woman's desire to burn with her books rather than live in a world without them.

She had something worth dying for, he didn't.

Kind of a parallel what many saw in the martyrs.

Anonymous said...

"They burned the books so that no one would be tempted to think beyond the surface of life."

I think you've nailed it here. I also think you'll enjoy the rest of the book. Bradbury is an artist, one of the absolute best of the "genre" writers, in my opinion.

You should check out The Martian Chronicles, if you ever have time. Also Dandelion Wine is an excellent book, though it's not sci-fi.

Christopher Fisher