Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Repayment in Kind

My mother taught me that, upon receiving a compliment, I should give one in return. I have been lax in my duties as a Genteel Southern Lass, because last Sunday a gentleman paid me an exquisite compliment and I am only now returning the favor.

(As an aside: You do realize this is why Southern Ladies never engage in group sex, yes? Far too many thank-you notes to write.)

Pillock, he of A Trout in the Milk (heretofore erroneously known as Circumstantial Wordpress on these very pages... oh, the scandal of it all!), said the following:
…in related news, another new entry is everybody’s latest crush, Erin Palette from Lurking Rhythmically, who has the annoying personality flaw of being a better writer than I am, all breezy and casually skillful-like…
This kind of flattery will get you everywhere with me. Note carefully the use of Whedonesque dialect -- Pillock knows I am a Firefly fan! By calling me "everybody's latest crush" he makes me feel both popular and appealing. And, most importantly, he is annoyed by the perception that I am a better writer than he.

No doubt many of you are wondering why being called annoying is such a huge compliment. I'll address that in a bit, but first, I need to clear up this "better writer" nonsense.

Pillock writes in a style that is both incredibly intelligent and easily readable. For those requiring proof, I point you here, where he speculates on the future of alternate power and, amazingly, manages to bring Zeppelins into the mix in a manner unexpected yet utterly believable.

Zeppelins. All cashiers, please proceed to the front of the store to assist customers with freaking out.

Secondly... and I say "secondly" only chronologically, as these entries are all vying for "First" within my heart... are his wondrous essays on comic books where he talks about all sorts of wonderfully geeky things like Quantum Computation in Comics, Compressibility of Marvel Time, and more dissertations on the Fantastic Four than you can shake a stick at.

This man is scary smart, because he has found the place where comic books meet metaphysics, and has made discussing them interesting. And he does all this without using a single picture.

I don't know if that's something I could do, but this man does it easily, and at a volume which I find equally impressive. Which isn't to say the man rambles, heavens no! But he has honest-to-god essays, whereas the most I've been able to churn out for this blog is maybe two pages per entry, back when I was doing Eris Week. This is something that annoys me.

Annoyance, to a writer, is not the same thing as being annoyed at a sibling or a bothersome child. Instead, authorial annoyance (a term I just made up) is what a writer feels when she reads a particularly resonant piece of dialog, an exceptionally skilled turn of phrase, or a masterfully wrought scene, and thinks to herself: Dammit, I've tried for years to say that exact same thing half as well, and here comes this new guy who does it effortlessly.

Usually this results in the near-obsessive reading and dissection of every piece of that writer's work, as the annoyed author tries to reverse-engineer the wordsmithing. And this is a good thing, because we as writers need to be occasionally shaken from our solipsism and reminded that Hey, other people write good stuff too, and we can learn from it. Annoyance makes writers grow in their craft, and that is beautiful.

Pillock says I annoy him. I'm incredibly flattered, because to me that says "You have inspired me to try harder." However, it cuts both ways: I'm annoyed by Pillock's mastery of difficult literary critique and his ability to write actual, y'know, essays, as opposed to the short Style-Section articles I churn out daily.

So, Mr. Pillock: thank you for annoying me. May we both grow as writers because of this.

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