Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Meanings and are they necessary

I was reading over my breakfast this morning as my television has yet again gone off station (the TV man is coming later today to hopefully fix it).
I read Virginia Woolf's 'The Docks of London' from her little book 'the London scene'. Shortish, very much to the point, without a spare word (as is most of her writing) and so full of description.   It is a beautiful essay.

And it did strike me about comparison with a painting of the London Docks and how much more I would learn from the essay and what a picture I could paint in my imagination from her words.

Here's an example.   She is walking along the docks, watching the men unload 'working with the utmost organisation'.  One stops to speak to her and tells her some of the things they have found in sacks of cinnamon - a snake, a scorpion, a piece of amber, a diseased elephant's tooth. 

And so the essay goes on in the same vein.   By the end we have built up an incredible picture of the life on the docks - the men who work there, the ships that come in and out each  day - far more than we could ever do from a painting.

So I ask you - which would you prefer - a painting of the docks on your wall so that you could look at it, imagine the life there, speculate on what is going on.   Or an essay spelling out in detail for your imagination to work on. 

Can you compare?  Obviously there is room for both.   Perhaps it is just a case of personal preference.

25 comments:

Lilbitbrit said...

I would prefer the essay. A detailed description of all that is going on, which also conjures up the wider world, more than the painting would show.

Derek Faulkner said...

I'd prefer the essay. Having worked in the local docks for 34 years I can imagine exactly some of Virginia's stories. We still have scorpions living in the dockyard walls.

Tom Stephenson said...

I'll make that choice when I am forced to.

jinxxxygirl said...

I love to read Pat...as you know.. but being an artist and a crafter too i'am a visual person too.. This would be a difficult decision for me. But in the end i think i would chose a painting... Hopefully one i had done.. wink wink.. :) Great food for thought this morning Pat! Hugs! deb

Rachel Phillips said...

Think about Stanley Spencer's paintings of the Clyde shipyards and the whole of Clyde shipbuilding life, men, machines, rivets, chains, steel, hammers opens up before you and takes your breath away. Your question has to be a both answer.

Minigranny said...

I prefer words to pictures when it applies to Radio versus television or a book versus a tv adaptation but cannot imagine life without paintings and photographs.

Heather said...

I think it would be the essay or book. Well constructive prose envelopes one in the scene or event being described, but having said that, a wonderful painting can take one's breath away. However, books are easier to obtain and more affordable than wonderful paintings.

Ruth said...

Probably both for me, but first would be books! I don't know how I could exist without them.

anonymous said...

My preference would be influenced by who wrote the book. Some people see too little of the good in life for me to enjoy reading their stories. A dock worker may seem to have a hard job, a town appear as if it's residents are down trodden, etc. Yet if those folks have love in their homes, friends living nearby,coworkers they get along with they may feel that their life is rich. A painting allows ones imagination to choose...ideally many authors would write about a place and we could decide to read the one that suits our tastes. Very interesting topic,
thanks for presenting it,Mary

Marion said...

I'm a word person, so I'd choose the essay, but I also love art (my older daughter is an amazing artist & teaches art). I made sure my two daughters had art books and great literature all during their childhoods. I'm proud that they're both teachers. Can I have both? :-) I enjoy Woolf, but Ernest Hemingway is my favorite writer when it comes to description with a beautifully succinct brevity. "A Moveable Feast" is my favorite book by Hemingway:

"As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans."

~Ernest Hemingway, "A Moveable Feast"

shadypinesqltr said...

I prefer the written word. Books take me to more places and spark my imagination more. My current favourite author is Anne Rivers Siddons. Her words place me firmly in situ, compelete with sights, sounds and smells.

Morning's Minion said...

Words are always best for me. A scene crafted by a skilled 'word-smith' stays with me a long time.

Joanne Noragon said...

An essay. Lovely words. Lovely pages that go frontward and back.

Rachel Phillips said...

Do you think you should consider having something more straight forward as a tv than what you have at the moment? (These sets going through laptops can be trouble even for the most tech minded people).

Derek Faulkner said...

I agree with Rachel, I've had a normal flatscreen tv for the last 11 years and no problems.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Rachel and Derek - You are probably correct in your thinking. I certainly didn't realise exactly whatI was letting myself in for. The quality of the picture and sound is absolutely first class but it is rather temperamental. The man came and adjusted it yet again and he is going on holiday tomorrow for ten days and will call and see me on his return.

Many of you seem to agree with me that we need both. Thinking about Rachel's suggestion of Stanley Spencer's wonderful paintings of the Clyde Shipyards conjures up such imagery but then so does that brilliant quote from the Hemingway novel from Marion. So I think we are all right - there is no choice to be made, we need both to satisfy all our needs.

Rachel Phillips said...

My Sony flat screen is basic but wonderful and never any trouble and picture perfect. Catch-up tv is there if I want it but have to admit to never using it. I would say bite the bullet and get back to basics and put it down to experience. I can think of nothing worse than turning on and finding the thing has dropped down again and again and being helpless.

As for Stanley Spencer, those Clyde paintings are mind-blowing. But I am a reader too of course.

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

A book beats a painting any day

Cro Magnon said...

This is more the difference between Radio and TV, but being a painter I'd have to sit on the fence about pictures and books. Both are essential to me.

Beachcomber said...

Being a real bookworm, ( I used to annoy my father by sitting reading on the beach when we went to the seaside), if I had to choose one it would be the book but I’d much rather have both.
I prefer to read a book then watch a film of the book rather than the other way round.
Which ever way, book first or film first one affects the other.
I'm often disappointed by films after reading the book because the characters aren't how I imagine them or the plot is changed,sometimes radically. Agatha Christie's “ Ordeal by Innocence”, which was adapted for television, is a good recent example of this.
Even the identity of the murderer was different!

thelma said...

"No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.” Virginia Woolf. Wise words.

As to books over paintings, think it would have to be books for the exercising of the mind as one dreams through the plots and landscapes.

A Smaller Life said...

The essay first, to allow my mind and imagination to assemble the image and gorm my own opinions. But then perhaps time to pore over a picture to see if I was on the authors and/or artists wavelength.

A Smaller Life said...

'form' not 'gorm' .. haha 😉

Anonymous said...

Virginia Woolf is good, isn't she?

Bea said...

An essay, if as well written as Woolf's, would convey more than what one could see in a painting.