Late Night Synthesizer
It’s nearly midnight here in Seattle and it’s time for me to do a little synthesizin’.
how important are physcial descriptions of characters and do they ever work? it seems like whenever someone describes a character, i have less of an understanding of what they look like. and when someone doesn’t describe the character, i just supplement with my own understanding.
Five days later, Blake wrote a little piece about Joe Brainard’s book I Remember.
About 22 pages into I Remember is this section:
I remember Anne Kepler. She played the flute. I remember her straight shoulders. I remember her large eyes. Her slightly roman nose. And her full lips. I remember an oil painting I did of her playing the flute. Several years ago she died in a fire giving a flute concert at a children’s home in Brooklyn. All the children were saved. There was something about her like white marble.
I liked that little piece and made a little mental note of it. But what I like about it is not Brainard’s description of her face. It’s this: “There was something about her like white marble.” It’s an intangible description of her physicality. It allows the active imaginative participation of the reader in a way that asking us to imagine her “slightly roman nose” doesn’t.
I’m all for a bit of physical description, don’t get me wrong. But I prefer that last bit. I prefer a description that includes the individual’s demeanor beyond the strictly physical. “Something about her like white marble,” might be about how pale she is. It might be about her face and neck being free of blemish. It might just be about the passivity of her face. Her stoicism. It might be about her posture. The way she looks at you. The way she ignores you.