March 28, 2012


It doesn’t take much to make me feel insecure. If I watch a BBC mystery and don’t understand the killer’s motive, I feel inadequate. If someone tells a joke and everybody laughs but me, I feel lost. Sometimes I don’t even get the quips that appear on Facebook. 

Self doubt is natural but when I think about the miracle of language, I marvel that sound can be used to convey airy thoughts. Given that magical transformation from ideas to the expression of ideas, it’s little wonder that a message sometimes gets misconstrued?  


Usually, I look to the speaker or writer to clarify. After all, being invited into someone’s mind, my host should make me feel welcome. But communication does not flow in one direction. The audience must be attentive too.

I forgot that detail as I began to read “The Winter Vault” by Anne Michaels. I knew Michaels was a poet and that her first novel, ‘Fugitive Pieces” received critical acclaim. Naturally, I relaxed, relying on the knowledge I was in the hands of a  master. Michaels’ style was a rich and smooth, like Haagen Dazs ice cream. I turned the first few pages with delight; but as I continued reading, my eyes drooped and I realized I was bored. True, each page was beautifully written and  I felt as if I was walking through the verbal equivalent of the Louvre. Image after glorious image presented itself to my imagination, but where did all of them lead?  Where was the story?

That familiar sensation of being out of touch crept over me and in self-defense, I grew impatient, blaming the artist for my failure to understand. At one point, I flung the book aside to express my frustration. But those of you who visit this blog with any consistency know that I have come to admire Anne Michaels’ work (see blog 3/12,2012). So what brought about my transformation?  

To learn more, join me for tomorrow’s blog.