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Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Retreat of Mr. Id

"The best authors are those whose writing is easy to understand".

No regular reader of my blog will be surprised to know how frequently I interact with librarians. When recommending Nina Sankovitch's "Tolstoy And The Purple Chair" to one of them recently I innocently commented how the writing in this memoir was simple but highly effective. Her response to my comment was the statement above. What's your reaction, if any, to her statement? Put another way, when an author is not easy to understand, how much impact does that have on your assessment of their talent?

My gentle push back to the librarian's statement was accepted with grace. This wasn't surprising; she is intelligent and uncharacteristically, I had chosen my words carefully. But despite my atypical tact and our polite interchange, the encounter has replayed in my head several times. And my doppelganger Mr. Id has been hovering nearby whispering to me - Best?

Before putting Mr. Id back in his dungeon, many past conversations with others sharing this librarian's sentiment about music, art, film, and literature rumbled in my head. Then a contrasting statement (paraphrased below) an old friend made when we were discussing, of all things, the drummer in the White Stripes, gave me enough solace to banish the old coot, at least for now.

"Don't equate 'I don't like it' with 'It's not good' ". Now those are sentiments even Mr. Id can abide.


  1. Pat, You're absolutely correct. A.A. Milne,the author of the Winnie-the Pooh books is easy to understand (I'm not in any way being disparaging,they're wonderful children's books). Many people, including myself,find Shakespeare difficult to understand. I'm pretty sure that's not a reflection of Shakespeare's talent.

    1. Thanks again for your comment, Peter. And I'm not surprised we're aligned here - you're a gentle compassionate soul.

  2. Agree that simplicity is not a requirement for artistry, but I think there is also an art to communicating clearly. Perhaps the best authors are those who elevate us, challenge us, teach us something, deliver interesting, novel, and unique ideas and positions, AND communicate so that the reader clearly understands the author's message and intent.