Those Delicious Words

“Never say more than is necessary” is a good advice in most situations. With the students at school or my kids at home, especially when giving instructions, this certainly is the truth. However, it does not necessarily apply to blogging or storytelling. Sometimes it is fun just to enjoy words and phrases without the need to accomplish or finish something.

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There is one novel that I started almost ten years ago called Höfundur Íslands (The Author of Iceland, 2001) by the Icelandic writer Hallgrímur Helgason that I like to nibble on every now and then, a sentence here and another one there. For me it does not mean that the book is so bad that I can’t finish it, quite the contrary. I enjoy it so much that I don’t want to finish it. And maybe Hallgrímur Helgason did not write that book for binge reading, maybe it was meant to be nibbled on.

I must admit that I do binge reading as well. There are books that need to be finished off quickly, to the extent that sometimes I feel guilty afterwards for skipping sentences in order to race to the end as quickly as possible. That happened to me with a young Finnish author called Riikka Pulkkinen. She is one of the most distinguished contemporary writers in Finland. If you haven’t read any of her novels yet, I think you should. With Riikka’s Book of Strangers, however, I didn’t race to the end in order to find out what happened. Instead I gobbled up her words and phrases because they were so delicious that I couldn’t stop.

When looking for scarce expression, it is most often present in poetry. My favorite book of poems is Edith Södergran‘s Samlade dikter (Collected Poems). When a writer wisely and delicately picks his or her words, there is room left for imagination and interpretation. It is a common advice for writers to condense, wrap up, say it shorter. Just as you need to be a very good writer to be able to pull off scarcity in expression, the same is true about diverging. And for a reader like me, maybe there is a time and place for enjoying both. Maybe you nibble when you are not that hungry and devour when you’re starving.

(Quote in the beginning by Richard Brinsley Sheridan)

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