Lois Lowry's Blog
A few words about a few words
I am in the middle of some finishing-up, some final work on a manuscript that I will give to my editor when we meet for lunch on Monday.
But no one can work on one thing non-stop and so I take breaks from time to time. Today, over lunch, I picked up and read a few pages of a book I recently bought after reading a review. The book is called THE HOUSEKEEPER AND THE PROFESSOR, by Yoko Ogawa.
I have not read very far, but already I love this book, and the spare quality of its prose---a little like a Japanese garden or house: everything placed exactly right, no excess at all.
Here (to my mind) are three perfect sentences:
My son's schoolbag lay abandoned on the rug. The light in the Professor's study was dim. Outside the window, the blossoms on the apricot tree were heavy with rain.
Don't those three sentences, together, convey the exact feeling, the tone, the author intends? The selection of words—abandoned, dim, heavy, rain—combine to make the reader enter a certain mood even as one enters the room being described. And the cadence is perfect. The first two sentences are brief, declaratory, and then they are followed by the longer, more extended descriptive sentence.
I read that passage several times, savoring how economical and evocative it was.
Of course the book is in translation and it is impossible, without knowing both languages well, to know whom to credit: author or translator. At best, both, one hopes.
I recently sent Allen Say a copy of my book "Gossamer" newly translated into Japanese, and he told me that if/when he finds time, he will read both the English and the Japanese and let me know how good the translation is.
In the meantime, I will continue to read this book slowly, appreciating each paragraph, cach page.