On the train ride back from Mumbai, I was finally able to take in the Indian landscape. Certainly wasn’t like the drive from Phoenix to Los Angeles or from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It was a lot of greenery, flatlands with interspersed unshapely trees. Very few mountains or the sheer rock drops like on the drive from Phoenix to Los Angeles. There was a time during the ride when there were massive mountains of clouds in the sky propped up by a plane of grey dust. It brought to mind Cormac McCarthy’s phrase “the mountains in their blue islands stood footless in the void like floating temples” The clouds did look like floating temples. The sentence described perfectly the moment. I had thought Cormac was describing clouds when he was actually describing mountains. I think the phrase perfectly described clouds myself.
Anyway, it got me thinking about descriptive writing. Was Cormac looking at a picture when he wrote that or was that something from his imagination? When I first read the sentence, I thought it was beautiful but it didn’t bring to mind any visual. The sentence though stayed with me for a weeks. Only after I saw those massive clouds did the visual click.
I suppose one must be careful that writing doesn’t sound too cerebral. that the metaphors and vividness actually work for the reader. Of course what makes sense to you, might not sense to another reader. I don’t know what it would take to be able to hit on mental images that resonate with a broad class of readers. Well, I’m learning.