Monday, February 21, 2005

Just beautiful

From Gilead, a novel:

In writing this, I notice the care it costs me not to use certain words more than I ought to. I am thinking about the word "just." I almost wish I could have written that the sun just shone and the tree just glistened, and the water just poured out of it and the girl just laughed--when it's used that way it does indicate a stress on the word that follows it, and also a particular pitch of the voice. People talk that way when they want to call attention to a thing existing in excess of itself, so to speak, a sort of purity or lavishness, at any rate something ordinary in kind but exceptional in degree. So it seems to me at the moment. There is something real signified by that word "just" that proper language won't acknowledge. It's a little like the German ge-. I regret that I must deprive myself of it. It takes half the point out of telling the story.

And now having finished this lovely meditative novel, I note that toward the end, the narrator does use the intensifier "just" on a couple of occasions, just lets himself go I suppose. It made me smile. There've been lots of reviews of the book, none better than the one at The Revealer.

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