Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Joanna Russ: "Dirty Wordies, or, The Fiendish Thingie"

A big thank you to the blog future_of_feminism for posting this speech by the late, great Joanna Russ: 
"Dirty Wordies, or, The Fiendish Thingie" (1969)

There are so many quotable lines in this speech about writing and "taboo" words. Here are but a few:
"There is a fashionable idea around today -- maybe I should not call it an idea, for I hardly think it attains to the complexity of real thinking -- there is this confused notion, then, that anger is somehow sacred, rage is holy, and you are justified in doing anything you please as long as you are angry enough -- and angry at the right targets, that is, at the currently fashionable targets. 
I do not agree. Being shocked is not in itself a good thing for people; on the contrary, it is a distinctly unpleasant experience, and the writer who shocks you on the grounds that it's good for people to be shocked is like the writer who hits you over the head with a brick on the grounds that it's good for people to be hit on the head now and then, and anyhow, he enjoys it." 

"One of the most annoying things in the world is the way dirty words can distract people from anything else -- when a reader gets shocked at a dirty wordie, he stops paying attention to the plot, to the characters, to the mood, to the theme, to everything. 
The dirty word is a little bomb that explodes and scatters the work of art in all directions."

"The whole effort of literary art is to make things speakable. Nothing should be unspeakable or unnameable. That's what language is for -- to name things."
Read the rest. I implore you.

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