Fishing for Beauty in Writing

This is a piece that I wrote a while back.  I really liked it, and I thought that maybe someone else would too.  Sorry about the odd spacing.  I just don’t understand WordPress sometimes.

Photo By: Elizabeth Preston

Photo By: Elizabeth Preston

I believe that beauty is inherent in the majority of the written language that we use. Most of the instances that come to my mind come from fishing books. Perhaps this is because of my own affinity for fishing, or maybe it is because of the spiritual nexus that comes together when fishing, fisherman, water, and nature meet. The beauty does not even have to come from erudite language that moves circuitously through meaning like a winding mountain stream. Henry Winkler’s (yes, the Fonz) writing perhaps best demonstrates the beauty in simple language.

In his semi-autobiographical book, I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the River, Winkler reveals his passion, and even obsession, for fly-fishing. I should note that Winkler states that he is not an expert fly fisherman. He is simply someone who is captivated by fly fishing—an activity that always hovers around the line between sport and art. Winkler does not even keep the fish he catches; rather, he bears the badge of catch-and-release fisherman, which is a mark that I have come to associate with those who truly appreciate the animal and the craft. Winkler writes the following after he has caught the trout of a lifetime:

For me, fly-fishing isn’t about capturing or conquering or owning the fish. It’s about sharing a moment in time with a wild creature, feeling its power and merging with its life force for just a brief period. I release my fish so that others might have the pleasure of engaging with them. And I always express gratitude for the moments we had together. I never eat them because they are too majestic and beautiful. (I would never eat a labradoodle, either, by the way.) I want all of my trout to live on so we can play again one day. (Winkler 105-106)

Winkler’s writing is not flowery or abounding with complicated words or phrases (the word with the most syllables—four—is “labradoodle”). It is simplistic and colloquial. Yet, his voice and style of writing (which is always conversational) shines in his prose with his joke about the labradoodle, and readers can feel his deep respect and admiration for the fish. There is almost a breezy beauty in the passage, particularly when Winkler writes, “It’s about sharing a moment in time with a wild creature, feeling its power and merging with its life force for just a brief period.” Not only is there a sense of vulnerable honesty in the sentence, but many fishermen (including this fisherwoman) can identify with Winkler’s sentiments. In that moment when the fish connects with your line, you can feel the power of the animal. Even when the fish is no bigger than a tube of lipstick, you feel admiration for the little creature fighting so hard for life.

Despite Winkler’s easy, conversational tone, and the simplistic beauty of his sentences and descriptions, I realize that the crafting of such sentences was most likely anything but easy for Winkler. Creating simple, effective, and clean sentences that convey meaning, and even truth, is oftentimes difficult for writers. However, Winkler has another challenge that he faces each time he puts word to paper—his dyslexia.

How seemingly contradictory it is for a dyslexic person to be a professional writer; and yet, Winkler has written (not ghostwritten) several children’s books in addition to I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the River. Why does a dyslexic person choose such a career though? The question is not thoroughly addressed in I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the River. Winkler treats his writing career as a personal triumph and proof to his teachers and parents (whose pet name for him was “dumb dog” in German) that he is not dumb, nor is he a waste. Perhaps this “oh yeah” moment was what originally drew him to writing. However, I hypothesize that there is another underlying reason—I believe that Winkler recognizes and understands the beauty of language.
I should explain what I mean by “beauty.” There is an aspect of physical beauty—perhaps the words look “pretty” on the page. Authors, such as Ben Fountain (who wrote Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk—a finalist for the National Book Award), play with the spacing of words to create feelings and meanings within a text (“Billy”). This spacing can be beautiful.
The sound of a sentence can also be pleasant to the mind’s ear and to the physical ear, and this can create beauty. Norman Maclean is one of the masters of making music with words. One of the most melodic passages in his book A River Runs Through It and Other Stories is the following:
Of course, now I am too old to be much of a fisherman, and now of course I usually fish the big waters alone, although some friends think I shouldn’t. Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.
Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters. (104)

Maclean knows how to make his words sing with rhythm. His description of all that he is surrounded by in the canyon slows with his multiple phrases and long sentence. Time is unhurried for Maclean in that moment as he feels everything inside of him melt and mesh with everything that has been and is. The reader can feel this slowing and can feel the melancholy in Maclean as he fishes and lives alone. The second paragraph is also rhythmically beautiful. The words sound soft and mimic the flow of a river. It is almost as if Maclean has written poetry into prose. Then, the last sentence in the final paragraph (indeed the sentence is the final paragraph) continues with the soft sounds by avoiding hard consonants, and the soft, short sentence haunts the reader just as Maclean is haunted.

In addition to sound and rhythm contributing to the beauty of language is the meaning behind the language. Again, the above passage from Maclean is an excellent example of beautiful meaning behind the words. Without meaning in prose (this does not necessarily stand for poetry), it is difficult to have beauty. The meaning allows the reader to connect with the author—to feel his emotions coursing through his own veins and heart. When the text comes alive in this way, beauty is created through language. Many people can connect with Maclean being unable to forget all those in his life who have now been taken by death. Like Maclean, those of us who have lost someone are also “haunted by waters.” Surely, in this connection created by language and meaning, there is beauty.

Whether it is through the relatively simple language of Henry Winkler, or the poetic prose of Norman Maclean, language can convey beauty through aesthetics, sound, rhythm, meaning, and connection with the reader. Fishing may simply be the vessel for the aforementioned two writers’ words and stories. Indeed, the beauty of an art, such as fly fishing, may beg for the beauty of language.

Works Consulted
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: A Novel.” Barnes&Noble. N.p., 2014. Web. Sept. 14.

Fountain, Ben. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: A Novel. New York: HarperCollins, 2012. Print.

Maclean, Norman. A River Runs Through It and Other Stories. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976. Print.

Winkler, Henry. I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the River. San Rafael: Insight Editions, 2011. Print.


Review of Ingram Hill (2012)

Imagine my excitement when I heard that one of my favorite alternative rock bands, Ingram Hill, was coming out with a new album. Imagine my skepticism when I saw that the album was classified as “country”—the last stop before possible musical oblivion for many pop and rock artists. It’s hard to conceive of lead singer Justin Moore’s edgy, raspy, rock voice blending with the twang of a banjo, and yet . . . the fellas did it, and they did it well.
Ingram Hill, which consists of Justin Moore (guitar and lead vocals), Phil Bogard (guitar), and Zach Kirk (bass and vocals), financed its new self-titled album primarily through the members’ own savings and fan donations. The band members also self-produced, recorded, mixed, and wrote most of the album’s eleven songs.
The band has typically placed itself in the alternative rock genre, especially with its June’s Picture Show’s “Will I Ever Make it Home” and Cold in California’s “Why Don’t You” (which is given a nod in the new album’s “Behind My Guitar”). Instead of trying to recreate the sounds of past work, however, Ingram Hill embraces the southern musical style and culture these Tennessee boys know and love.
Much of Ingram Hill contains songs praising the American south. With lyrics that invoke images of a “pretty sundress” and a “Texas sky,” the band honors symbols of the southland, yet avoids the clichéd images of “good ol’ boys” square dancing and spitting the occasional “tobacky” while they down moonshine. Ingram Hill’s most celebratory southern song is undoubtedly “Good Ol’ Dixie,” in which the band gives a shout out to Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee and invokes “Alabama, Mississippi pride.”
Ingram Hill also uses traditional country instruments, such as the banjo and steel guitar, in songs like “Behind My Guitar” and “Good Ol’ Dixie.” The new instrumental additions may call attention to the southern edge of Moore’s rock voice, but Moore smartly keeps the sound of his signature voice unchanged. Country-esque guitar licks in “Mainline Train” (which has a very “Sweet Home Alabama” guitar run) and “Those Three Words” continue to announce that Ingram Hill wants to be, and now is, country rock.
The band, thankfully, does not completely break with its alternative rock tradition. “Mainline Train” and “Yellow House” still feature the guitar sustain and heavy drums of many of the band’s past albums. In truth, the album mixes alternative rock, country, and blues. R&B even makes a debut in “Those Three Words,” particularly in the bass line which gives the song a nice grooving funk.
If there is any “throwaway” song on this album, it would be “Oh My,” which features a light-hearted narrative encompassed in a southern rock and country blues framework. The song effectively showcases Ingram Hill’s instrumental talent, particularly regarding the guitar. However, “Oh My” comes off as a song that was fun for the band to create rather than as a song that features Ingram Hill’s winning formula—meaningful lyrics and melodic tunes. Still, for the rest of the songs, Ingram Hill continues in its wordsmith tradition and uses intelligent and catchy lyrics, such as in “Those Three Words” with lines like “Everyday is brighter when you walk in the room/ you’re like a nice cool breeze in the middle of June” and “rehearsing every cliché I know/ even make up some of my own.”
Although classified as “country,” Ingram Hill is an amalgamation of the band’s past alternative rock and its current blues, R&B, and country influences. As the country genre is continually expanding, it is unsurprising that the Tennessee trio has found a new niche. For now, Ingram Hill continues to put out quality music that remains unique and never has, as the band puts it in “Behind My Guitar,” the “same old stories, same clichés.”

Bullish Dancing with Jazz Pharmaceuticals (written October 2012) (P.S. I was right.)

With Jazz Pharmaceuticals’ (NASDAQ: JAZZ) remarkable share price increase from a 52-week low of $34.02 to a recent high of $60.00, it makes you wonder how much gas JAZZ has left in the tank.
A biopharmaceutical company based in Ireland, JAZZ produces sixteen different medications pertaining to narcolepsy, pain management, oncology, psychiatry, and women’s health. Its distribution areas include the United States, ten countries in Europe, and eighty other countries worldwide. Since swallowing Azure Pharma in January and EUSA Pharma in June, JAZZ’s price has been trending upwards.
JAZZ’s primary growth engine is its narcolepsy drug, Xyrem: the only Food and Drug (FDA)-approved treatment of both cataplexy and excessive daytime sleepiness in narcolepsy patients. The company got a big boost this September when Xyrem was protected by a federal court largely siding with JAZZ against Roxane Laboratories, which had hoped to get FDA approval for its generic version of Xyrem. It is rumored that Roxane Laboratories will try again to dethrone Xyrem sometime in mid 2013.
JAZZ was also supercharged with the September issuance of ten US patents regarding Xyrem’s formulation, manufacturing, and distribution system. These patents’ expiration dates range from 2019 to 2024, so JAZZ looks to be in good shape for quite some time.
The company is not without its competitors, which include: GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), Novartis (NYSE: NVS), and Teva Pharmaceutical (NYSE: TEVA). However, in the narcolepsy market, JAZZ remains largely unchallenged. Narcolepsy has historically been under diagnosed—but that is changing. Therefore, Xyrem will likely increase in demand and in price. This bodes well for JAZZ.
While JAZZ lacks portfolio diversity in comparison to some of its competitors, it does have sixteen medications under its belt. EUSA Pharma, a subsidiary of JAZZ, has had great success with its oncology treatment drug, Erwinaze. Nevertheless, JAZZ will live and die by Xyrem.
For now, JAZZ appears healthy and trending towards growth. Although, there has been no insider trading since November 2011, and the company has no intention of offering a dividend any time soon. The company’s revenue is expected to hit $613 million for 2012, which would more than double its $272 million revenue in 2011. JAZZ’s PE ratio remains one of the highest in the biotechnology and drugs industry, which makes it a speculative growth stock; however, the stock shows bullish trends and strong strength relative to its competitors. JAZZ should continue its growth for at least a year or two if Xyrem does not encounter any class action suits (none are pending) or threats from JAZZ’s competitors.
Works Consulted

Comtex. “Recent 52-Week High Exceeded in Shares of Jazz Pharmaceuticals.” Last modified October 5, 2012. Accessed October 8, 2012.

FDA News. “Jazz Appears to Win on Patent Claim Terms in Xyrem Fight.” Last modified September 26, 2012. Accessed October 8, 2012. “Jazz Pharmaceuticals’ Healthy Stock Performance.” Forbes. Last modified June 19, 2012. Accessed October 8, 2012.

FreshBrewedMedia. “Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ) Showing Bullish Technicals But Could
Break Through $59.86 Resistance.” Last modified October 4, 2012. Accessed October 8, 2012.

Frommer Lawrence & Haug. “FLH Partner Malin Quoted in FDAnews Article on Jazz’s Recent Xyrem Markman Ruling.” FDA Lawyers Blog. Last modified September 27, 2012. Accessed October 8, 2012.

Jazz Pharmaceuticals plc. “About Us.” Jazz Pharmaceuticals. Accessed October 8, 2012.

Jazz Pharmaceuticals Plc. Accessed October 8, 2012.

Jazz Pharmaceuticals plc. “Products.” Jazz Pharmaceuticals. Accessed October 8, 2012.

Kennedy, Val Brickates. “Jazz Pharmaceuticals Gains on Xyrem Court Ruling.” Market Watch. Last modified September 17, 2012. Accessed October 8, 2012.

Legal “Xyrem Side Effects.” Legal View. Accessed October 8, 2012.

PropThink. “JAZZ Gains over Long-Awaited News on Generic Xyrem Lawsuit.” Last modified
September 17, 2012. Accessed October 8, 2012.

Russell, Galileo. “Jazz Pharmaceuticals Looking Like An Easy Double On Revenue Explosion.” Seeking Alpha. Last modified September 12, 2012. Accessed October 8, 2012.

Scottrade. “Insider Activity.” Scottrade. Accessed October 8, 2012.

Scottrade. “Jazz Pharmaceuticals PLC.” Scottrade. Accessed October 8, 2012.

Scottrade. “Jazz Pharmaceuticals PLC.” Scottrade. Accessed October 8, 2012.

Scottrade. “10-Q.” Scottrade. Last modified August 7, 2012.

Second Opinion Weekly. “Second Opinion Weekly – Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ).” Scottrade. Last modified October 5, 2012. Accessed October 8, 2012.

Standard & Poors. “Jazz Pharmaceuticals Plc.” Scottrade. Accessed October 8, 2012.

Thomson Reuters. “Jazz Pharmaceuticals Plc (Jazz-O).” Scottrade. Last modified October 8,
2012. Accessed October 8, 2012.

Williams, Sean. “Why Jazz Pharmaceuticals Could Head Even Higher.” The Motley Fool. Last
modified September 18, 2012. Accessed October 8, 2012.

Yahoo! “/C O R R E C T I O N — Jazz Pharmaceuticals/.” Yahoo! Finance. Last modified
September 12, 2012. Accessed October 8, 2012.

A Scene From My Life as a Writer

Deep breath. Loosen the shoulders. Close your eyes and open them. “Dang it! Nothing.” The cursor blinks mockingly at me on my blank Microsoft Word document. I get up from my chair and walk around my room. Apparently, writing a novel is more difficult than I thought. Where’s the dog, I think to myself. I need a distraction.
I look under my bed and find my cotton ball Bichon Frise sleeping. “Sabbie,” I coo, “Sabbie wake up. I need a break.” She opens one bloodshot eye at me as if to say, “To need a break, you need to work.”
“Sabbie,” I repeat. “Sabbie.”
She ignores my pleas and turns her back to me. I sigh. Even the dog knows that I’ve written nothing.
I sit back down at my desk. Why did Microsoft think that it was a good idea to make the cursor blink? Quite frankly, it’s a little sadistic. Why don’t they just complete the image of humiliation by making a laughing emoticon be the cursor?
“Okay,” I say out loud. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, just write.” Just . . . just don’t start with “It was a dark and stormy night.” I pause. My fingers fly across the keyboard and type, “It was a dark and stormy morning.”