RARA-AVIS: Re: Style

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 22 Dec 2001

Neil asked:

>Having seen several posts similar to this so far, I have to ask--What
>exactly is the trouble with "style" here? Granted, I agree that
>Ellroy's more recent work since My Dark Places has gotten parodic and
>tedious (especially the GQ stuff), but I think LAC and, a step above
>that, White Jazz, work great because of this hyper, scat-singing,
>broken style. Is there a problem then with style in general?
>Experimentation? What?

Well, there's nothing wrong with style. Chandler had it. Thompson had it. Hammett had it. Any writer worth reading usually has it. I think Chandler once said something like "for a writer, style is everything."

I liked what Ellroy was trying to do in those books, and I loved the whole vibe of White Jazz, but it's a trick that became old real fast. At least to me. The fact Ellroy's books seem to be getting longer and longer as Ellroy becomes more and more lost in his obsessions (in between People magaziner interviews about how he's becoming more and more lost in his obsessions ) doesn't help either. You don't need five hours to pull a rabbit out of a hat, and you certainly shouldn't take six hours to do the same trick two years later, and expect people to act like they've never seen it done before.

When the style overshadows the writing, when it completely dominates the story,it's time to pull back. And, of course, not all style is cool. A lot depends on the writers, and how well the style is used, as well as the style itself. ee cummings did all lower case, mostly in short blasts of poetry, and it worked. In the hands of lesser writers, in prose for instance, it just comes off as adolescent and pretentious and sloppy.

But experimentation? That's a whole different kettle of fish. I'd guess most people read pop fiction to be entertained, maybe learn a little something, gain some insight maybe. I would wager most people don't pick up DICK STEELE CRACKS THE CASE OF THE GUY WHO SHOT PEOPLE A LOT or something like that, hoping to see how someone has deconstructed and reconstructed the novel. In other words, save the self-indulgent wanking for "real" literature -- we want, to borrow a phrase and get right down to it, "plots with guns."


Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.thrillingdetective.com
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