A Death of Words

More and more, I’m disturbed to be encountering so many people who scorn words. What a relief they exclaim when they discover less print in their magazines. It is the echoing empty content pages I am protesting today.

In these remarkable, accelerated times of transition, I am aware that the print media now are unsure of their future relevance. As magazines and newspapers grapple to adapt to an internet format, most editors have become convinced that the way of the future demands more images and less writing. To me, though, the disappearance of meaty articles from most common magazines is an assault on our precious resources of  perceiving, feeling and thinking. There is a breathlessness to a world where no one has time to utter, shape or read words. And yet, our interactions have been shaped by a diversity of language. What replaces words now, as we inevitably forget how to use them?

My concern  came to a head last night when I watched a recent French movie where the troubled thirty-something lovers could barely grunt their dissatisfaction with each other. Without refined, considered words, what hope did they have of understanding and resolving their differences?  Although I’m speaking to you here through one, I distrust blogs as a substitute for articles and essays, think-pieces, if you will. Too many blog-writers blurt with scant thought and shaping to their words—just what I experienced in last night’s movie. Along with article authors, I miss the editing process which used to help shape their writing into something worth reading.

So what do I want? I look to magazine writing to introduce me to people I’d like to know better, to expand my thinking, to inspire me, to make me laugh, to broaden my world. I want to be drawn inside of others’ lives in enough depth to really empathize. I want to know “how it feels…”. I like to share in others’ thinking, so reflective pieces are fine with me.  I mourn the loss of “thoughtful” and “in-depth”. Surprise me, I ask editors. Push the parameters a bit, play with the edges. Isn’t this fun?

For instance, memorable articles in Handwoven, a cherished weaving magazine, were ones from a priest, Father David Centner, who contributed projects when he could, but also his thoughts on the meditative quality of weaving. His brief, well-chosen words made me see the pleasure of my own interlacements in new ways. This was a gift I carried with me after I set the magazine away. I think of Vita Sackville-West’s lively, thoughtful, evocative, stimulating, inquisitive column on gardening, “In Your Garden”, first published in The Observer. I miss the verve of an E.B. White and his humor.

I want more, not less. For instance, I’d like to read some pages about Patrick Lima’s life with his celebrated garden, Larkwhistle. I’d like to hear from relatively unknown authors, also, people who might expand my perspective. Instead of a piece about living with quadruplets, I’d like less sensation and more about common situations. That means I’d like to read a piece about what it feels like to be living those first few months with a new baby. We need to be reminded of the greatness of small moments.

With the demise of fine magazine writing my world feels narrower. How about yours?

About Peri McQuay

Peri Phillips McQuay is the author of Singing Meadow: The Adventure of Creating a Country Home, The View From Foley Mountain, a book of nature meditations on her experiences living for 30 years at the Foley Mountain Conservation Area and A Wing in the Door: Life With a Red-tailed Hawk is the story of her adventures with Merak, a human-imprinted hawk, who lived free but saw McQuay and her family as her special people. Also Peri has written numerous essays, articles, book reviews and a weekly column, published in the Kingston Whig-Standard Magazine. Her credits include Country Journal, Harrowsmith, Bird Watcher’s Digest, The Snowy Egret, Seasons, The Fiddlehead, Herizons and Brick.
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