Monday, January 31, 2011

Magisterial -- The Greatest Compliment

The greatest compliment you can give a movie is "blockbuster" or "boffo." For movies, the whole thing is to make big box office bucks -- it's all reduced to that. Actors, directors, and the others don't give a crap for anything else. It's all money.

But in the world of books, there's some differences. As a dedicated reader of blurbs on the back of books -- and occasionally I get up to around page 16 in my unsuccessful efforts to read them (I'm busy and it takes forever to read a book) -- I know what writers like to hear.

"Authoriative" is nice, "essential," "definitive," "really good," and "interesting" are good compliments. I would like to have any of those terms used to describe my own writings, this blog. People often say such things -- then I wave them off as being undeserved, hoping they'll prevail in the battle of wits against me, but they usually give up and move on.

Yes, all those words are great. A writer sits in his study writing, dying to hear those compliments, as page after page is written, maybe a page a day or only one paragraph; it doesn't matter. Maybe he's so immersed in a character, like my own Percival A. Hashbrown, that he subsumes his own personality.  But somewhere under his crunchy light brown exterior, there's still a soft spot in his heart for praise.

I've often daydreamed of writing a book as thick as a couch, with everyone sitting up then and taking notice and giving me my well deserved strokes. Maybe it'll happen, maybe not, it probably will someday. Then they'll stroke me with those words, which of course I'll love.

But the word that is the highest praise for a writer, a book, is "magisterial." That's a knockout word. It sounds so grand, like a magistrate, a big white powdered wig on a judge, and the guy's so serious he has narrow eyes and a pointed nose. Or maybe he's a Calvinist magistrate who persecutes men, whose daily edict has everyone burnt at the stake just for fun.

To be called "magisterial" -- your book -- means you've gone beyond simple authority all the way up to literary divinity.

Would I like my own writings to be called "magisterial"? Of course, it's every serious writer's dream. You've got your words well ordered, every comma in place, you've spell checked it, and no one can dispute your conclusions. Even if they do, they're still breathless that you wrote it like that, magisterially. To them, you're a magistrate, a god on the magisterial mountain of literature.

I just saw in the last couple days a couple of books called "magisterial." And I bought one of them! Because if it's that good, it must be good. It gave me no great personal joy, not being the author, but it assured me that I could trust this book implicitly. I did get a little personal joy, because if I actually read it, and I'm like in the third chapter already, it might help me write better, more magisterially.

The thing is, with blogs, they're not usually called magisterial, because you're not taking the same care. The difference between me and others is ... I do take the same care; I proofread everything at least once and I'm a good to very good speller. I'm a magistrate in the making!

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