POLONIUS: What do you read, my lord?
HAMLET: Words, words, words.
(William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 2:2:191-192)
Ah, I love quoting Shakespeare in the morning. Or something. The truth is, I’ve always liked this little exchange in Hamlet, precisely because the prince’s answer is one that never happens.
If I were to ask you what you’re reading, you’d probably tell me the name of a book, or perhaps something of the plot. Maybe you’d give me an author’s name, and you might mention how it’s written (good or bad), or you might not. These are all good answers, and I’m not trying to imply otherwise, but how often do we actually discuss the books we’re familiar with in terms of their makeup, their words?
LitKicks member beatvibe recently asked:
Which literary work do you feel makes the best use of the English language?
It’s a simple question, yet I think it’s deceptively so, because how do you judge? Do you judge a good use of language in terms of clever wordplay? No-frills simplicity? Careful craftsmanship? Something else?
I’m sure that there’s a diversity in methods (and as such, a diversity of choices), but when you think about all the things you’ve read, is there something that blew you away because its use of language? (Or maybe it didn’t blow you away, but you respect its use of language all the same.)
I’d really like to know your answers.