Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press

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John Wright

This brings to mind what I was just reading in Ruskin's Stones of Venice about the decoration of archtecture. There can never be too much, although there can be more than falls within the architects ability to manage. For my part, I don't think I will ever object to fluency of prose unless that prose sacrifices in the process its first purpose--namely, to convey clearly the impressions that form the story's aim. I do not want--I suspect no one really wants--eloquence that is excrescent, but rather that which is fused entirely to the purpose of the narrative.

The same is true in the matter of authorial opinions: to the extent that they are particular (of a certain proposal) rather than universal, the story falls out of balance. However estimable his assertions, they remain polemic, and the effect of polemic being as variable as particular opinions, must be perfectly indeterminate in their effect on the reader. This introduces gross uncertainty and is poor design.

But as for style, symbols, or any sort of adornment of fiction, a writer is less likely to err with too little adornment than too much, although less adornment will always be inferior to more, when correctly applied--a more trivial subject inferior to a more consequential--miscellaneous, eclectic imagery inferior to that which iscomplementary and cumulative.

Finally, you say that serious (I take this to mean "good") writers deviate from the tried and true order to enhance the reader's experience rather than subvert it. If the tried and true order is convention itself (whatever it may be at the time), then I agree. Although it may be simpler to say that everything a good writer does (to the extent that he is a good writer) is deliberate. He may write quickly in the moment, but the moment of writing is prepared by prior thought or tested by the same. A perfect work is tested and coordinated in all its parts. It conforms to convention to the extent that convention is expedient and deviation unnecessary. But nothing is accidental.


What happened to looking at this from the reader's perspective? Readers are looking for something specific in the titles they select. Some desire the books with multiple layers. Books that make a statement about something. Other readers simply want to escape into a world created by the writer. Neither reader is wrong and neither reader is right, but as writers our job is to provide those materials that will meet the needs of the various audiences. Doesn't matter what one author thinks of another - just fuel for the fodder and has the makings of a debate. We seem to continuously forget why we are here - because there are people out there who want to (hopefully) read what we write.

I think authors make a huge mistake in assuming that there are two kinds of readers - genre readers and literary readers. I believe this to be false. Absolutely false. Most readers are attracted to a certain style and at different points in their lives they will crave a type of title/kind of author and gravitate to that genre. So to imply that a reader of mysteries would never pick up Salman Rushdie is a false assumption.

John O.

"although less adornment will always be inferior to more, when correctly applied--a more trivial subject inferior to a more consequential"

I'm not sure how to approach this comment, other than with a sense of amazement that someone could make such a sweeping remark in reference to a work of art. Whther or not adornment is "correctly applied" (which implies that there is some sort of rules by which adornment, and other artistic endeavors can be deemed correct or incorrect), who is to say that more is always better than less? In fact, I've heard it said by many, and tend to agree myself, that a small amount of flavor/adornment/description/etc, if used judiciously, can be just as effective as a greater amount. To automatically assume that more is better, and that "serious" is "good" is exactly the type of thinking that Grumpy Old Bookman seems to argue against. It's that kind of thinking that mistakes large, complicated, overflowing stories for great stories. It's not that such stories can't be great, it's just that more size, complication, or details are not inherently "good."

John Wright

"It's that kind of thinking that mistakes large, complicated, overflowing stories for great stories."

No. It's that kind of thinking that doesn't confuse "greater detail is better when correctly applied" with complication, largeness and overflow.

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