November 26th, 2009
|08:09 pm - The bonkers prose I like|
Here are two little pieces of writing that I have read today, both picked out by someone else as examples of very poor prose. But I like them a lot.
"[They] walked off in separate directions through the chaparral to stand spraddlelegged clutching their knees and vomiting. The browsing horses jerked their heads up. It was no sound they'd ever heard before. In the gray twilight those retchings seemed to echo like the calls of some rude provisional species loosed upon that waste. Something imperfect and malformed lodged in the heart of being. A thing smirking deep in the eyes of grace itself like a gorgon in an autumn pool. (All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy) "This was described thus: 'It is a rare passage that can make you look up, wherever you may be, and wonder if you are being subjected to a diabolically thorough Candid Camera prank.' (Which by the way is a great line).
A small group of partygoers stood quietly watching the snow descend against the lights of the few passing boats and the light-flecked buildings on the canal's far side. The spiraling chaos of flakes appeared from the darkness overhead and disappeared silently into the oily blackness of the gently moving waters before it. … Here, in the eternally sinking city, with that odour of glamorous savagery filtering through my mind like mist off the lagoon into a room, it all felt spent here but only paused elsewhere, like something waiting to resume. (Transition, Iain M Banks)The latter was described by Adam Roberts (whom I normally tend to agree with) with as 'an almost Dan Brown gush of superfluous adjectives and adverbs'.
I suppose sometimes I like over-stuffed prose. To make a good post I'd have third example, but the chances of finding one that a clever person has criticised today are slim. Oh, I know, here's some HP Lovecraft, who I expect many people have good reason to think is awful, but I like:
There rose within him the tantalising faith that somewhere an easy gate existed, which if one found would admit him freely to those outer deeps whose echoes rattled so dimly at the back of his memory. It might be in the visible world, yet it might be only in his mind and soul. Perhaps he held within his own half-explored brain that cryptic link which would awaken him to elder and future lives in forgotten dimensions; which would bind him to the stars, and to the infinities and eternities beyond them. (The Descendant, HP Lovecraft)
Anyway, not sure where I am going with this, but 'it just goes to show'.
I don't find any of them dreadful. Not madly gripping, but I've no urge to change them. My inner editor is silent.
Interesting perspective. A big difference from Dan Brown is that they aren't 'wrong' wrong. They are competent if nothing else. Personally I like 'em more than that. Do you itch to take a red pen to Dan Brown when you read him?
I have never had any urge to read Dan Brown...
Huh. I find both of your criticized examples vividly descriptive. I find them both moderately annoying, too: they make me want to roll my eyes a little at the pretentiousness--especially the McCarthy. But overall I feel like, "Not my style," rather than "aaarrrggh! who published this guy??"
The Lovecraft example strikes me as being largely excusable for being a hundred years old. Not sure period excuses every stylistic excess, but it must excuse some.
The master of clear prose IMHO is George Orwell; he's the exact opposite of these three. BTW the structure of that Lovecraft story is also completely bonkers - the whole thing doesn't make any sense at all. But somehow it works for me.
I think purple prose has its place. As does spare, concise writing also. Purple prose has a weight to it, which can sometimes feel like being hit by the collapse of layers of dusty red-velvet curtains; suffocating, befuddling, wanting to make you sneeze. Too much is not a good thing, but in smaller doses, it's lovely.
like being hit by the collapse of layers of dusty red-velvet curtains; suffocating, befuddling, wanting to make you sneeze
excellent work with the purple there
|Date:||November 27th, 2009 08:31 am (UTC)|| |
I have always been a columnist. I construct spare,little structures, making every word count. Have always admired Iain Banks for his soaring cathedrals of words. Envy him too.
Banks has somehow mastered the trick of being paid for it too. Sigh.