Billy Crystal’s iconic SNL characterization of Fernando Lamas reminds us of something our culture, and increasingly the world at large, embraces wholeheartedly. We like pretty, shiny, things. We prefer beautiful people, big effects in movies and sparkly vampires.
Gardeners are divided into two camps, those who grow flowers and those who grow food.
The flower gardens are the pretty ones, they smell wonderful and the best ones have a water feature in them. Those are the places where you want to take a nap in the grass, bring a date for a picnic, even get married in.
The veggie gardens will have regimented beds or long rows, they will smell like cow manure and have an incessant buzzing of pollinating insects. These are the places you take your grass clippings when the trash collectors forget to pick them up or in the event of a zombie apocalypse.
Knowing we were hosting our family reunion BBQ, I concentrated on making the garden as pretty as possible. And it looked fantastic. But now all those choices to make it pretty has cost us plenty. Very few plants has produced much, and aside from getting some jam and some tomato sauce out of the yard, it’s been a meager year.
But it looked so, so good.
Writers are also divided into two camps, literary and genre.
Literary writers form pretty sentences. They weave intricate turns of phrase. They use language like paint brushes.
Genre writers crank out mysteries, fantasies and love stories. They bring characters to life and build worlds where readers get lost in.
I have a feeling that when literary writers grow a garden it is filled with beautiful flowers, and genre writers grow corn.
But every once in a while, if a genre writer has a vision and enough time, they can create a story of devastating beauty that feeds and satisfies the reader.
I’m a genre writer. I write supernatural horror, a genre that has a long history of beautiful prose. At the same time I am a veggie grower who wants his garden to be just as beautiful and fragrant as a rose garden. Just as I want my stories to be as intriguing as they are attractive.
That sort of symmetry takes years and years of writing and planting. And until I get there, I suppose it’s better to feel good than to look good.