Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I had a whole blahhhhhg written about my freshman and sophomore teacher and my computer crashed and all was lost, probably for the best.  My freshman English teacher was an angel, while my sophomore English teacher was an asshole.  Que sera sera, anyways. 

I was re-reading Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, which was assigned to me by my asshole sophomore English teacher.  It was the first book I'd been ordered to read that I hadn't already read.  I say that not really to blow my own horn although you're of course free to be impressed, but to show that I was ready to love the book.  I knew the schools had good taste, so far Toledo Public  had loved the same books I'd loved.  Ethan Frome didn't let me down, and it remains one of my steadfast favorites.

So I'm re-reading it right now and I come across this passage right in the beginning:

"I never doubted that Frome would appear.  He was not the kind of man to be turned from his business by any commotion of the elements; and at the appointed hour his sleigh glided up through the snow like a stage-apparition behind thickening veils of gauze."

Behind thickening veils of gauze.  Isn't that the perfect way to describe both Ethan Frome and the snowstorm? 

I don't have anything against pictures, or movies, or television, or any other entertainment medium.  I'm not one of those pretentious assholes who thinks television has ruined books.  I love TV, I love movies.  But paintings, and words, stories, they all used to be worth so much more.  So I'm reading that passage from Edith Wharton, and even though it's been more than one hundred years since the book was published in 1911, the image so thoroughly sketched out by the words strikes me. 

A picture is worth a thousand words, sure, alright, but how many words have our pictures really cost us?

I think people should be aware of this changing of the guard, regardless of how casually society is treating the shift.  I don't think there's a need for pretense about these things, but I am a fan of literary descriptions and stories.  I'm also a fan of pictures and movies and shitty TV shows.

"He was not the kind of man to be turned from his business by any commotion of the elements"

Holy shit, beautiful, right? 

Before pictures and movies and television, story tellers and singers and painters were rock stars.  This is because nobody knew what the fuck was going on without some kind of descriptive, and before pictures and movies and television existed, these older media forms were it.  This was OK, our finest literary works sprang from people wanting to share a story without the use of a set and cast and pictures, because people used to have to spread their stories without those props. 

I guess I'd just like to take note of this change.  In thirty years someone will probably be "writing" about how virtual brain implant image exchangers are better than pictures, I don't know.  I just hope there are a few people then who enjoy old fashioned writing. 


  1. Your love of words is contagious! I've always been more of a "picture" person, but you're so right, every illustration, every set design, was usually envisioned, and outlined, or described, with the written word. I love the way YOU write-it's so fresh and surprising, no matter the topic!

  2. thanks jackie! i love everything newfangled too, i love how easy it is to film something or take and send a picture or link a video, i just don't like the loss of brain exercise. it's like with cars though, you can't have fast ambulances and fire engines without the over-reliance on cars for even short distance and the loss of exercise that comes with that. brb, driving to get the m ail