*Please note that this article is an opinion-editorial.
Epiphanies are awesome!
I had one this week, and it was just spectacular – that moment when the intellectual clouds part and you connect the dots and put the round peg in the round hole and the fog lifts and you just see it! Everything clicks and you understand on a much greater level something about yourself or life or art or the world. The stars align to form a weird constellation. It’s a moment of euphoric eureka.
So, here’s the story:
I was reading a Don Winslow novel. Does everybody know Winslow? If not, know him. Like immediately and that’s not negotiable. That’s an order! Don Winslow wrote the novel Savages that last summer’s Oliver Stone movie was based on. Anybody read Savages? It’s amazing, and I say that as somebody who thinks we grossly overuse the word “amazing.” (A caramel macchiato is not amazing.) To paraphrase Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, Savages is a book that’ll blow your hair back. I love that book so much that I still haven’t seen the movie, and there’s a good chance I won’t. I don’t want the movie to interfere with the experience I had reading that book. I know. Weird, huh?
So, I was reading a different book by Winslow this week (It’s called The Death and Life of Bobby Z, if you want to check it out.), and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I love the guy’s writing style. It’s as if he went through his manuscript and eliminated every single word that didn’t need to be there. He does this without sacrificing plot or character development. The book just hummed along at a slim 255 pages, but it was still a rich and satisfying experience. Winslow is the anti-Rowling, who really could have used a stern editor on those last few Potter books.
Combine with the gazelle-like sleekness of Winslow’s work his unique storytelling point of view (he’s a former investigator), and you just have this wonderfully readable voice. I love reading Don Winslow, because he doesn’t sound like anybody else out there. He has a one-of-a-kind take on the world and writes like nobody else I know. He makes words sing. I will read anything he published until one of us is dead.
So, I was reading Don Winslow and the fog lifted. For me, it’s all about the voice! When I think about the artists I most admire, they are almost always creative people who have a unique verbal or visual style. When you see or hear them, you instinctively know it’s them.
Don’t you just know Quentin Tarantino when you hear him? I’m old enough to remember the theatrical release of Pulp Fiction (I was in college at the time), and I can more distinctly remember all the Tarantino knock-offs that came after.
The same thing can be said about Joss Whedon. I was stunned by how inherently Joss-y The Avengers was. It floored me how much of his idiosyncratic voice was allowed to permeate such a huge event movie. And, it was even cooler that such a huge audience embraced it as we have for so long.
But, when I consider the lion’s share of artists I am most enamored by, they are almost always artists with a unique voice or style. Nobody else makes movies the way Terrence Malick does. Or Scorsese. Or Stanley Kubrick did.
How many late night talk shows today have all pretty much fallen in line with David Letterman’s unique spin on the form? The answer is: D, all of the above.
Matt Stone and Trey Parker have taken over familiar forms (the animated TV show, the old school Broadway musical) and infused them with their patented voice that blends the profane with the sweet.
Aaron Sorkin has made a science out of the walk and talk. Nobody writes that rapid-fire banter quite like he does. When you hear that quippy righteous indignation, you know who wrote it.
I was an English and Communications major in college. I took a creative writing class and, as much as I admired (and still do admire) the professor, what they were really doing was encouraging us to adopt a literary fiction type of writing style, as if we were all John Updike fetuses. It wasn’t until I got out of college and read Slaughterhouse-Five that I started to really get what true creative writing was all about. I know you were an atheist, but God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut.
Like all great artists, Don Winslow has inspired me. My new goal as a writer and an artist is to find my own voice, to parse out my own point of view. Whatever that turns out to be. I encourage anybody in the range of my word-processed voice to work to find their own.
Thanks for reading!