A Quagmire of Obtuse Construction April 9, 2015Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Word Play, Writing & Writers.
Instead of building from Point A to Point B, certain writers circle around the point they are trying to express, using as many ostentatious, esoteric, and cumbersome words as possible.
Cautious readers must wear hip boots or waders to protect against muck, mire, and the occasional thorn.
When I can’t follow a writer’s line of reasoning on a subject with which I am conversant, I assume the problem lies with the writer and not the reader.
Lest you accuse me of hubris, I followed the less than pellucid wanderings, wonderings, mutterings, and meanderings of Kant, Hume, Sartre, Descartes, and Socrates as a Philosophy major in college . . . without major mishap.
In law school, I studied and digested 75 page “briefs” of the United States Supreme Court . . . with only rare indigestion or stomach upset resulting from the effort.
Based on these experiences, it is my reasoned opinion that good writers, even those espousing philosophical musings, manage to convey complex ideology in a straightforward manner without resorting to obscure references and labyrinthine reasoning.
They bring readers into the fold, rather than leaving them out in the cold.
When writers obfuscate, that propensity may stem from a lack of mental clarity or acuity on their part. Perhaps they haven’t yet grasped what it is they are attempting to say.
Even if that appears the most ostensible or plausible explanation, I try to be charitable and give them the benefit of the doubt.
After all, if we didn’t know what we wanted to say, would we say anything?
I know that seems counter-intuitive but watching readers scratch their heads or stall in their tracks may provide befuddled or bemused writers with an ego boost derived from delusions of adequacy.
* He who writes carelessly makes first and foremost the confession that he himself does not place any great value on his thoughts. For the enthusiasm which inspires the unflagging endurance necessary for discovering the clearest, most forceful and most attractive form of expressing our thoughts is begotten only by the conviction of their weightiness and truth – just as we employ silver or golden caskets only for sacred things or priceless works of art. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer
* I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter. ~ Blaise Pascal
Aah . . . that’s better!
What about you? Have you ever waded into a writer’s work and become lost in a quagmire of obtuse construction? What did you do?
Did you beat a hasty retreat or wallow a while longer?
Related post: Defending the Chamois (Silver in the Barn)