A friend recently lent me Words in a French Life, a book assembled from a collection of blog posts -- a variety of literature that is burgeoning in these days of the internet. The author had been committed to writing every day about a different French word while exploring her life as an expat in France, raising children who were more proficient in the vernacular than herself. And I enjoyed it, in general: dredging up my college French to translate the phrases sprinkled throughout, learning new words, and looking at life in a different country. But writing every day must take its toll -- a few of the columns seemed a bit forced. There I would be, reading a perfectly good account, only to be thrown out entirely by a last inspirational sentence tacked on to bring the thing to a neat close.
I can't blame the author for this, exactly -- it seems to be endemic in blog writing particularly. I've grown very wary of the pretty conclusion, the spiritual lesson learned, the great insight gained through the grind of daily life. I know why writers use this trick, and I've done it myself -- hard up for something, anything, to post, I remember this little anecdote that could just do for posting if I can put some little inspirational twist on it. And people seem to eat the stuff up, so it must be fine, right?
Of course people draw inspirational conclusions from daily life all the time. What I find tiresome is the... craftedness of it all. Of course good writing must be crafted, not just flung at the page, but it takes a particular talent to draw inspiration from the ordinary while not seeming gimmicky or easy. Pentimento strikes me as an example of that kind of exemplary writer who can at all times maintain both honesty and real style in her writing at all times.
I don't even want inspiration from the internet anymore. I've been trying to immerse myself in Scripture, reading passages from the Wisdom literature each night. This is real. This is what can reach into my soul and open me to God in a way that reading a blog can never emulate. Who can say anything that Qoheleth didn't cover 23 centuries ago?
And that's fine. I like reading funny stories about people's kids, with no moral tacked on. I like musings on the political situation (to a point). And I love good, true writing -- not flashy, not gimmicky, not designed to lift me up or force a life lesson or "make me think". Bloggers can do the writing and I'll do my own thinking, without a serving of Chicken Soup for the internet soul.
21 minutes ago