Every word a provocative hullabaloo

January 25, 2012

American writer Gary Lutz describes the moment in his early teens when he began to read “in silence and in private”:

Many of the words were unfamiliar to me, but the words fizzed and popped and tinkled and bonged. I was reading so slowly that in many a word I heard the scrunch and flump of the consonants and the peal of the vowels. Granted, I wasn’t retaining much of anything, but almost every word now struck me as a provocative hullabaloo. This was my first real lesson about language—this inkling that a word is a solid, something firm and palpable. It was news to me that a word is matter, that it exists in tactual materiality, that it has a cubic bulk. Only on the page is it flat and undensified. In the mouth and in the mind it is three-dimensional, and there are parts that shoot out from it or sink into its syntactic surround.

From The Sentence Is a Lonely Place, a lecture by Lutz published in The Believer in 2009. It’s a long read — almost 7,000 words — but before a paragraph has elapsed you’ll either have had enough or you won’t want to stop reading until you reach the end.

Thanks to @seventydys for the link.