When I was in Peace Corps, my boyfriend at the time was state-side. He would send me magazines and clippings every couple of months: Mother Jones, The Sun, Adbusters. I had just finished reading a piece in Adbusters by a writer in high school and was talking about the effulgence of descriptions, the merits of being selective with adjectives and adverbs, &c. One high school teacher taught that every description is meant to tell you something deeper, and he imparted this memorable description from The Great Gatsby:
Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.
Fitzgerald meant something by the sugar.
“If a writer isn’t selective, then the reader doesn’t know what to focus on. The prose will have lost its impact,” I said.
After critiquing the young’un’s writing, I continued:
But as I was sitting there contemplating this writer’s style, I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be amazing if all your senses were bombarded so relentlessly you couldn’t even focus in? Where beauty and value were so abundant that every detail must be qualified? I don’t know if I’ve ever even been witness to anything so beautiful (I’m sure you must have, as you’ve been to so many places; ha funny, too, how that assumption [he’s outdoorsy] indicates that I believe such beauty can only exist in nature).
To this day, nothing immediately comes to mind. How about you, dear friends? What is it for you?
Filed under: Storytelling, Adbusters, beauty, descriptions, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Great Gasby, letters, Mother Jones, Peace Corps, qualifiers, The Sun Magazine, writing