Disclaimer: You are reading one of my early blog posts for a class and will have no context for what I’m about to say. For that, I apologize
I chose to explore the background and writing of Ms. Ferriss for a pretty silly-seeming reason. I just dug one of her titles, which including the phrase “misadventures of a reluctant debutante.” Midlist.org reveals that she is from the publishing world and feels she writes because she has to–the only reason, she claims, anyone other than genre writers would still be “left standing” in the business.
From “The Difficulty of Translation”:
She spoke the language passably. Once ao week or more she was invited to a dinner party at which others her age–bureaucrats, young lawyers, antique dealers–chatted excitedly around her and she soaked up their energy like a sponge going red with the excellent wine. Her thoughts felt simple to her on these occasions. The vocabulary at hand contained none of the shadings she was used to. In the empty, half-sober moments after she’d returned to her flat, she wondered sometimes if her party companions thought simple thoughts–but that was her American prejudice at work, filtering out whatever subtleties it couldn’t immediately process. She went to bed with the vapor of mystery. What did anyone think, really, and was language just a bowl to contain it? On rare occasions she missed the manager who brought her here, the one who had died on a hairpin term in the neighboring mountains. But she had scarcely known him, when you got down to it, and the years had smudged him into the gray of the city, until when she dreamed of him he was speaking in this other language, the one that made thoughts simple.”
I liked this for a few reasons. One, I hate tired similes, to the point where if I see the words “like” or “as,” I cringe and pick up something nearby in preparation to throw it in anger. When I read the sponge-wine simile, I was very happy to put down this notebook I was about to throw. Horray for the Ferriss-recessitated simile!
Two, I love the abstract, mind-bending comparisons, which are scattered throughout her writing. There was no question in my mind, after reading this piece, that this woman is a writer. That may sound odd, but I don’t actually consider many people of the title “writer” very deserving of the title. She is creative and almost bizarre in her descriptions, but not awkward bizarre–awesome bizarre. It’s the kind of bizarre that is a reflection of how unpredictable and nonsensical human psychology actually is, and her writing seems to track how we strive to make connections. The explanation of simplifying language and trying to make sense of dreams (dreams which might be trying to make sense of experience, I might add) capture all of this complexities in a way I find fun and quirky.
Which brings me to three…the actual concepts behind her writing are so smart, so observant. The nuances of language and this process of converting thought to some system of communication–it IS very surreal, isn’t it?