I had an idea this morning about writing essays, or blog posts, or other nonfiction pieces. I read a lot, and I've noticed that while a lot of the nonfiction reading I do is simply to pick up facts to use in fiction, I still do a lot of reading about fiction. Nonfiction essays (including literary criticism and plain old book reviews) about fiction.
In a purely factual piece, like an encylopedia article for example, I don't so much want the opinion of the writer to come through (though of course it's still there in the organization of the article and the weight given to subjects and supporting arguments and all of that). Mostly, I'm just looking for neutral information I can use for my own evil purposes.
In a piece where someone is talking about art, however, I think that what should be driving the writing is a strong opinion about the art or the artist. I think that, for example, most book reviews should be persuasive writing, not enclyopedia entries. And a lot of writing on the interwebs that's about fiction really lacks this sort of driving opinion.
For example, I think that if I were to write about Samuel Beckett's play Waiting For Godot, I could say that it's a comedy about the futility of searching for a higher meaning in life. Or I could say that it's basically two vagabonds in a wood who encounter various curious characters and speak in colorful nonsense. I could stretch those ideas out to 1000 words and it would all be true and informative, but it might not be interesting to anyone who's actually seen/read the play. It doesn't really spark a discussion. [Oh! More on that in a bit!]
What might be more interesting, at least to me, is if someone expressed an opinion about Waiting For Godot and said why they have that opinion. For example, when I read the play I laughed out loud, but every time I've actually seen it performed, it's struck me as pretty annoying for long stretches in the middle and I've been tempted to stand up and tell Vladimir and Estragon to stop their damned whining because, in general, this play is over acted by folks who want to chew up all the scenery. It's one of the best worst-acted plays of all time.* If anyone wanted to talk about why that is, or why I am mistaken, that would be cool.
Which is the thing, I think. A lot of writing, especially on the web, doesn't lend itself to discussions, and I think that's a shame. I would much rather have a conversation about a book or an author than just read a description of a book or a few facts about an author. What I enjoy most here on the Literary Lab, for example, are those days when people have differences of opinion and everyone's minds get expanded by exposure to opposing points of view.
So that's it, then: in my opinion, we should all be more opinionated, and should all be more upfront with our opinions. It would be interesting, I think. Also, it allows me an excuse to write the footnote that comes at the end of this blog post. Happy Friday, everyone!
* Though immediately Keanu Reeves' performance in Ken Branagh's film "Much Ado About Nothing" leaps to mind; Reeves seemed to have learned all his lines phonetically, having no idea what the words actually meant. That was some awful acting.