Growing up, I didn’t see writing as an art form. All I know for a start is that I enjoyed it. And at that age, 7 to 18, I couldn’t see it as art.
I took “art” literally as something physical other than writing. If you had asked me whether I like art, I would have thought of things like painting, sculpture, and mosaic. Of course, I like those.
Art is a symbol. It has depth beyond what you see on the surface, whether the Egyptian sphinx statue or the Mona Lisa. When you encounter it, you are expected to pause and admire it. Stare at it and let it guide your thoughts somewhere. Let it call your attention to something, anything, its beauty, the lines on it, the surface texture, and the thoughts of the admirers, too, asking what must she be thinking to have created that.
Talking about the inner thoughts of the admirer of art, have you ever read a poem or a book and felt connected to it? The writer has lent a hand and grabbed yours, and together, she leads you somewhere familiar. You can say, I’ve been somewhere that looks like this place, but I still want to go and see where this leads.
“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them…”
Anyone who has lived in a suburb can remember or feel a thing about ‘trees breathing delicate air’ or ‘bloodied and scarred creatures.’ For this person, reading these things isn’t just reading. It’s a walk across a familiar terrain. You see it, feel it, remember it. Maybe your own words wouldn’t have captured it the way the author did. But these are the author’s words, and you can’t help noticing the graciousness and the beauty the sentences captured. And that’s what even makes it a lot more endearing. In your head, you say, I wish I could think of these lines.
PS: You can’t. Not exactly that way.
Why Do We Love Art
I have to ask myself this question again because it’s not something you get asked often. Why do you love art? Like me, your answer might be a little short and boring. “It’s just beautiful.” That’s something I would say while holding the latest masterpieces from my friends who are artists. But ‘beautiful’ is a bit bland and too generic. This is not a good answer.
Why do you love art? After pondering this question for a while, I realize I can’t answer it for everyone. Why do we love art? So, I have to change it to Why do I love art? Well, art makes me ponder things I wouldn’t have on a normal day, like the beauty of life and the amazing things that exist in other people’s minds. To beheld such lines of literature or a figurine is like witnessing a kind of spell. You’re immersed in it for a little minute. You don’t have a response, but slowly, you blink and exhale. Amazing, you say. How did she do it?
Writing as an art form, how does that work?
When it comes to writing, it’s a little bit complex. It can both be lines or the whole masterpiece. This is how most admirations of artworks are. Or, to avoid answering for other people, it’s how MY admiration arts usually happens. First, I stay in awe of a few details that come to me, the lines, the mush of paintings, or the fine edges of carved wood, then I take some paces back and admire the whole piece.
The whole of Handmaid’s Tale is a masterpiece. I have often asked myself how Margaret Atwood wrote that book; it’s like she witnessed all of those. But no, none of it happened, in reality (but it historically happened, and I appreciate that she combined lots of research and historical events into that.) It’s amazing to know that someone’s mind works that way. I didn’t only know that her mind was that amazing, but I have the evidence of that awesomeness in my hand when I grab a copy of her book, which as a whole makes me pat the back, wipe imaginary dust off of the image of the lady in red, and nod at myself and say, I really wish I had this kind of mind.
Then, there is what lies between the covers of the book. Before you finish and appreciate the whole book, you will encounter a lot of pieces of art that form the whole thing. I underlined many lines and saved pages because they were beautiful, wonderful, and deserved a second read.
These are the lines I collected as I read The Handmaid’s Tale, this art, which makes me admire the whole thing still:
The three bodies hang there, even with the white sacks over their heads looking curiously stretched, like chickens strung up by the necks in a meatshop window; like birds with their wings clipped, like flightless birds, wrecked angels. It’s hard to take your eyes off them. Beneath the hems of the dresses the feet dangle, two pairs of red shoes, one pair of blue. If it weren’t for the ropes and the sacks it could be a kind of dance, a ballet, caught by flash-camera: mid-air. They look arranged. They look like showbiz….
…Now I am going shopping, the same as usual. I even look forward to it. There’s a certain consolation to be taken from routine…
…But this is wrong, nobody dies from lack of sex. It’s lack of love we die from. There’s nobody here I can love, all the people I could love are dead or elsewhere. Who knows where they are or what their names are now? They might as well be nowhere, as I am for them. I too am a missing person…The Handmaid’s Tale
So, for writing to be considered a form of art, it should wow you both in the details and the overall outlook.
If you love suspense and great storytelling, you will love The Mystery Around Lola.
Writing As An Art Form
I went through some of the most beautiful writings I have come across in my short time on Earth. These are two patterns in the kind of art that generally defines all writing as an art form or any art for that matter.
It has to do with surface beauty and then meaning.
It’s the kind of writing that makes you pause and nod. It gives you a deeper understanding of a lifestyle, a world, or a concept, and for a moment — or probably for years — you hold on to the ideas expressed in those few lines.
More drink is generally taken at this point, and what is strange is that the old men in the village—who, though men, have no defense—will often now grab at the bottles themselves, drinking deeply and weeping, for you need courage not only to commit bloody chaos but also to sit by and watch it happen.
Here, the elders of a village have accepted their fate and started drinking, too, when two terrorists started taking their things, and they could do nothing. You need courage not to commit bloody chaos, Zadie Smith wrote, but also to sit and watch it happen. This sentence has a lot of depth, and as I read it, my mind interprets the meaning to a broader extent than what the writer has put down.
Another example is from Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book, Eat, Pray Love:
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.”
The sentences have more meaning when you finish the book and realize the author did all of that — travel, strive for it, go around the world — to be happy.
In summary, this form of appreciation in writing as an art form is about depth and meaning.
This implies the beauty of the lines. Some sentences or word formation that looks like flowers. The beauty is on the surface, but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel a lot of understanding or insights from the words.
I stopped seeing a penitent. I stopped seeing a child of God. I stopped seeing a lost lamb in need of a shepherd. I saw only a woman in need—ripe, delicious need.Priest, Sierra Simone
The quote below is the second paragraph from East of Eden:
I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers. I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in the summer—and what trees and seasons smelled like—how people looked and walked and smelled even. The memory of odors is very rich.
You have ‘I remember’ repeated twice, and then the sentences take a deeper and refreshing appeal when you read it to ‘what trees and seasons smelled like—how people looked and walked and smelled even.’
Virginia Woolf is one of the famous authors who used how the mind thinks continuously and unhindered, difficult to curtail, to tell her stories. Our mind connects one thought to another and another and another, barely taking a break. You’re 40; one minute, you’re thinking of food, and the next, you’re thinking of an ambition you had six years ago when you just finished secondary at the age of 17. It’s called stream of consciousness, and it’s like the thoughts of a character are a kind of stream, that flows steadily, collides with rock, and carries a dead leave or a dead insect along with it without looking back.
Look at this example from Mrs Dalloway.
How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen as she then was) solemn, feeling as she did, standing there at the open window, that something awful was about to happen; looking at the flowers, at the trees with the smoke winding off them and the rooks rising, falling; standing and looking until Peter Walsh said, “Musing among the vegetables?”Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
Usually, things overlap when it comes to the surface beauty and intellectual depth of writing. We can’t say the quote of Virginia Woolf I put up has no meaning at all. Yet, we can neither say that this quote, ‘you need courage not only to commit bloody chaos but also to sit by and watch it happen,’ has no style on the surface. They overlap; sometimes, a piece of writing can score very high in both areas. I have read The Handmaid’s Tale and East of Eden, and I know both achieve those.
Enjoy The Art In The Writing
This blog regularly examines thoughts and ideas from books. as part of this step. So, if you love to explore more intellectual beauty from fiction books you love, you can check out this part of the blog.