Letter: Words elicit emotions

This morning (Jul 10) I read Margaret Carlson’s delightful op ed piece in the Strib regarding Warren G. Harding’s lurid correspondence with Carrie Fulton Phillips. Once I had to go to the dictionary, because I did not know what billets doux meant; I was hoping for something a bit more saucy than “love letter.”  Whatever, I enjoy looking up new words occasionally; what I hate are those writers who string together words I can pronounce but which leave me with no information. I ran into such this afternoon in Robert Alter’s The Art of Biblical Narrative. There I read,
A cosmology of hierarchical continuities, as in mythological thought, exhibits strong metaphorical tendencies. The enmeshing and interlocking of structures are coherently expressed in poetic evocation of transferable, substitutable qualities and names. In this world,             movement tends to round itself into totalization, impelled by the principle of closure.
I can read it, I just can’t understand it. My reaction to such is frustration, but also, curiously, anger. I blame the writer for not writing words that makes sense to me. It’s his fault, you see. But I also harbor what I hope is an irrational  fear, but the fear is real and sits there within me, like a demon within a smirk on its face. The fear is that most everyone else understands what the heck the author said.
Is there anyone else in this boat with me? If not, then I will add worry to my list of reactions. There must be something wrong with me.

Richard (Dick) Gist
Princeton

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