‘Style Is Character’

Didion once wrote, “Style is character…”

Rhetorically, a “this is that” assertion that plops two abstractions around a copulative can be a facile expedient for simulating profundity.

Nathan Heller comments that Didion’s observation about style has to do with “the burden of creative choice.” Didion’s remark was made in an essay about Georgia O’Keeffe.

Every choice one made alone—every word chosen or rejected, every brush stroke laid or not laid down—betrayed one’s character,” Didion wrote.

What Heller quotes next from Didion’s essay cuts through the gauze:

“This is a woman who in 1939 could advise her admirers that they were missing her point, that their appreciation of her famous flowers was merely sentimental… She is simply hard, a straight shooter, a woman clean of received wisdom and open to what she sees…”

It takes a writer clean of fustian who fits her own description to describe O’Keeffe with those choices of word: hard, straight shooter, open. Character maybe, but style is style, too.

(Nathan Heller, “What We Get Wrong About Joan Didion,” The New Yorker, 2-1-21 issue)

(c) 2021 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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