Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How Words Combine

Last night I picked up Nick Hornby's new novel Juliet, Naked and was struck by how absolutely beautiful his writing is. How words become sentences and sentences become paragraphs and somehow those paragraphs become a story.

According to the Oxford Dicitonaries, there are 250,000 distinctive words in the English language (not including technical words and jargon). The Library of Congress, the oldest library in the nation and the largest in the world, houses 32 million books, only a fraction of the books ever printed. USA Today claims there are just under 175,000 books published every year, which averages out to be 479 books a day or almost 20 books an hour.

With all this writing and so few words, it amazes me that something new is being written all the time, every day, every minute. Even if you don't count retellings, translations and nonfiction, this is still a mind-boggling amount of storytelling. And out of all these stories--out of the hundred or so books I read every year--books continue to move me and teach me and change me.

Every day people write things. They use the same words to express the same emotions and even tell the same stories. Yet each work is distinct. Each writer has his own voice. Each word somehow manages to hold a different meaning and convey a different image to each reader. We are human after all, and no two people see the same image. For no two people can stand in the same spot at the same time, just like no two words can ever combine to mean the same thing.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear that you like the new Hornby book. He's one of the few authors whose books my husband and I both enjoy, so I should pick up a copy.