La Petite Mort: To Die the Little Death
Growing up in West Virginia, I lived in a big house on top of a hill. On either side of the house there was a sundeck. The one on the west side of the house I used to bake myself every Spring Break to meld my many freckles into a semblance of a tan, while other kids from much more affluent families went to Ft. Lauderdale, or Tampa, or Orlando. The one on the east was outside my bedroom. The acoustics were such that at night I could go out there and listen to the audio coming from the Drive-In at the bottom of the hill. And on the Fourth of July, I could watch the fireworks.
Now, even though we could easily see the fireworks from our house, my father and I would trudge down the hill to the local strip center that housed a discount Big Box, an A&P grocery, a record store, and, to my fascination; a “head shop,” to watch the show with crowds in the parking lot. There is something about watching fireworks in concert with others that makes them somehow bigger, better, more exciting. To hear the “oohs” and “ahhs” as the white light streams upwards with a strange haunting whine, then a whistle, only to burst into fountains of color within color. For me and my dad, who taught me not to show my feelings lest they be used against me, fireworks’ shows were the perfect opportunity to feel glorious — yet safe.
We did the same with music. Sure one can listen to a great piece in recorded format, but being part of the experience makes it — more. Better than any compliment, hug, passionate kiss or even an orgasm, the collective experience of great spectacle or song moves me in a way that makes me feel as if I am exploding into a thousand tiny little pieces of joy. Almost to the point of tears, and left with the ache of expenditure. Yet wanting more. La Petite Mort.
Good writing is like that. Writing that comes from the heart and soul of the author takes a certain talent. Yes, one can be trained in the mechanics. Just as in music, where one chooses the perfect tempo, rhythm and harmony, one can be schooled to choose the perfect grammar, punctuation and style. But without the writer’s heart and soul, writing to me, is mediocre at best. If it does not make its audience feel anything, why bother to read it? The works that make one feel — joyous, angry, sad, even shitty — those are the pieces worth reading. And those are the pieces worth writing. It would be so much easier to follow the rules: make sure the writing is pleasant, affable, on-point and offends no one. But those are the writings and writers people forget.
Soulless writing is safer and easier. It separates the aptly trained from the truly gifted, because honest writing often comes at a price. It rarely makes one rich, and it does not always make one popular. It usually does not win one awards.
But every once in a while it does.
We have been quite critical of the Wine Blog Awards in the past. Joe was castigated ad nauseum for his last year’s commentary, even threatened with lawsuits. But it looks like the powers that be took some of our suggestions to heart, all the same. It is gratifying to see this year’s crop of winners are not the same recycled “Friends and Family” of the past, and several of the 2015 Wine Blog Award Winners are my own personal favorites.
2015 Wine Blog Awards’ Winners
- Best Blog Post of the Year: Robin Williams: Art, alcoholism, and suicide on Chris Kassel’s Intoxicology Report
- Best Original Photography or Video on a Wine Blog: Jason and Angela Stubblefield, Cork Envy
- Best Industry Wine Blog: Berry Bros. & Rudd Wine Blog
- Best Single Subject Wine Blog: Wil Fernandez, Vintage 2014
- Best Writing On a Wine Blog: Meg Houston Maker, Maker’s Table
- Best New Wine Blog: Julien Miquel, Social Vignerons
- Best Overall Wine Blog: Becca Yeamans, The Academic Wino
Congratulations to the winners — I look forward to hearing them speak at the 2015 Wine Bloggers’ Conference this August in Corning, New York.