Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Power of A Well-Crafted Phrase

I just began reading "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. It is a fictional story told from the perspective of Amir, a Pashtun man who grew up in Afghanistan during the late 60's and early 70's and fled to the United States with his father when the Soviets invaded the country.

I hope to post some reflections as I move through the book. Hosseini addresses some very important subjects.

What immediately struck me as I began the book, though, was the power of words. Hosseini is a very gifted writer, and can turn phrases like omelets at Denny's. Reading his descriptions makes me realize again the importance of writing well. You know. Not just saying something, but really SAYING something.

Here's an example. Amir has a strained relationship with his father, whom he calls Baba. Baba was a soccer player in his day. Amir reads books. Baba is strong and opinionated and drinks scotch. Amir gets pushed around and stepped on. But Amir reveres his Baba. Fears him, even.

One day Amir decides to write a short story and show it to Baba. Listen to how Hosseini retells the meeting:

"'What is it, Amir?' Baba said, reclining on the sofa and lacing his hands behind his head. Blue smoke swirled around his face. His glare made my throat feel dry. I cleared it and told him I'd written a story.

Baba nodded and gave a thin smile that conveyed little more than feigned interest. 'Well, that's very good, isn't it?' he said. Then nothing more. He just looked at me through the cloud of smoke.

I probably stood there for under a minute, but, to this day, it was one of the longest minutes of my life. Seconds plodded by, each separated from the next by an eternity. Air grew heavy, damp, almost solid. I was breathing bricks. Baba went on staring me down, and didn't offer to read."

May God give us a love for crisp description, especially as we have the greatest of Stories to tell.

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