I'm currently reading John Crowley's _Four Freedoms_, which features a protagonist with a disability, and I am struck, as always, by how Crowley manages to bring such a visual sensibility to his work, while also providing such a rich sense of the multiple characters's interior lives.
For those who may not know, Crowley has worked for decades in the field of documentary film, and he has a genius for the language of describing visuals. It's
thanks to John Crowleyhttp://bostonreview.net/BR32.3/crowley.html
that I found out that there is a word for something which I had been striving to express to sighted people for years: why is it considered
to be such an impossible dream that I expect visual artists and critics to be able to describe what they see and what they do? Language and art should not be distant countries completely unknown to one another.
John Crowley, like one of the alchemists in his own books, has the mysterious occult
word to give my thoughts shape: "The word for written descriptions, in prose or verse, of works of art is ekphrasis..."
I use the word occult not merely in its meaning of magical but in its meaning of hidden or darkened, because language helps us to cast a light upon what has up until then remained hidden or half-sensed, perhaps only because, in limiting ourselves to a single sense, we fail to place what we are examining in various lights.
It's kind of difficult to talk about art or John Crowley's writing without, perhaps, coming across as wearing one's lit crit hat, but the work which recently reminded me of this link between words and pictures was an old movie, the classic film noir "Out of the Past," starring Robert Mitchum and produced by Jacques Tourneur, whose own work says a lot about thoughts and pictures, dark and light.
What struck me in listening to "Out of the Past" was how it possesses something which I find sadly lacking in a lot of contemporary films: dialogue which is sharp and eloquent, but which reinforces the personalities of the characters and underscores the sensibility of the film.
In checking out he IMDB page for this film, I realized that the person who wrote the screenplay also wrote the book upon which it was based and the radio version. It struck me that it was no surprise that this writer wrote dialogue which was fast-paced and snappy, because radio, like Shakespeare's plays, had to put not only the emotion but the action into the words. No long panning shots to show you the backdrop, no closeups to show you the teary-eyed woman or the squinting, flinty-eyed tough guy. Just words, creating pictures.