Erikson is genius.
When I read a book I don’t just pretend I’m reading about a good story or an interesting theme, but that there’s some creative and inspired use of language, and wordplay. Something that is pertinent to writing itself as an art and form of expression.
In the latest months I’ve moved from reading Erikson (and fantasy) to David Foster Wallace. They can’t be more far away in style and purpose, yet I seem to find more in common than differences. One thing I love about both is that the single WORDS they use have a weight that’s bigger than the space they take on the page. Words alone open worlds. What’s plainly denoted in the text is nowhere the breadth of what it suggest or implies. Of what’s emergent from the book and transcends it.
Here’s the simplest of examples I just quoted below:
“a sudden expostulation of amorous possibility”
Basically four relevant words that suggest much more, and yet that couldn’t be more precise and delimiting perfectly the meaning of the text.
SUDDEN – Something abrupt, unforeseen. Something that breaks whatever came before. Interruption. A suggestion of change. Change of course. Break point. Something new.
EXPOSTULATION – “Postulate”, comes from a latin word. It is used in geometry. “to assume or claim as true”. An axiom. A principle but, in particular, a starting point. Following “sudden”, it’s what the New Wave is based on. Something that is both true and undeniable and new.
But you aren’t unaware of context. The context is what happens in the mind of a bear. A bear doesn’t think logically and its thoughts aren’t articulated through language. So what it thinks is like an image that is projected on the mind. Ex-postulation. “Ex” stand for “out of”. Something coming out. Something that, “suddenly”, takes shape. That becomes real. A sudden axiom, a change in the bear’s mind, coming as an image, a sudden apparition. But “expostulation”, as a word, also directly suggest a demand. A claim. People who pretend their government responds to their demands. Here standing for a sudden request, something that suddenly exists, appears, is true and can’t be denied. Also something totalitarian, that doesn’t admit objections and that erases everything that was before.
OF – Of what? What is the object?
POSSIBILITY – The object isn’t what is sexual. It is not being amorous. The object is the entire realm of “possibility”. Whatever it suggests in your mind. Facts and potential. Wonder. Whatever is unspeakable, just suggested. Omitted because it’s all in potential, whatever it is. Just the state of being in potential.
AMOROUS – Amorous is used as an adjective, not as the object. In this case it simply gives quality to the “possibility”, and delimits it. It let’s the object of the thought open up to embrace all possibility, without restraint. Yet it delimits it to give it a quality and express what it is for. But it’s up to the reader imagine the “what”. While keeping it open to everything that keeps “amorous” as a quality.
So here’s why the language isn’t powerful for its objective meaning, for what is denotative. But for everything else it suggest, precisely and without limits, in the mind of the reader. It conveys an idea in four words that is precisely what it wants to express (no misinterpretation), yet open to a world of possibility.