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(322) Silbón americano

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

Quality and silence: “What is to be aimed at in a style is something so unobtrusive and so quiet—and so beautiful if possible—that the reader should not know he is reading, and be conscious only that he is living in the life of the book…a book so quiet in tone, so clearly and so unobtrusively worded, that it should give the effect of a long monologue spoken by a lover at a little distance from his mistress’s ear—a book about the invisible relationships between man and man.” So said Ford Maddox Ford—a view he developed when he helped Joseph Conrad with a few novels. As discussed, Quality, as Pirsig speaks about it, describes silence—and here we see, in a literary setting, the same rule exemplified.

It’s not silence all over—you notice that style is “quiet” but it’s there, and what has been written is still “sound”; it’s just that the operative part has been silenced—Flaubert said that all writing amounts to style, all writing as fine art; so what the above sentence describes is the essence of what makes literature. Everything that has Quality makes itself unobtrusive—from aristocrats to the mechanism behind an Apple product, the latter’s Quality being obvious from the way the company’s products are more silent than any PC (and are, as the cliché has it, “intuitive” to use—seamless). So there’s no need to take an Apple apart, that’s what makes it a Quality product.

Yet Quality doesn’t mean to be inactive—it’s not that nothing happens, it’s just that the operative part is silent (you don’t see what makes it work—and that makes it akin to illusion in stage magic, with all art magic in the end). So far as God goes, the entity with the highest Quality is the most unobtrusive—hence that which “makes it go”, makes it all go, will be like “style” in Ford Maddox Ford’s estimation (you will never be conscious that it exists).


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