RARA-AVIS: "transparent" prose

From: Carrie Pruett ( pruettc@hotmail.com)
Date: 17 Jan 2002

somewhat OT but I think when we're talking about writing it all comes around

Following up my own post:
>Oh, sure, it takes all kinds. I know I was even recently thinking of >an
>author I liked for just that reason though of course I can't >remember who
>it was at the moment.

I remember now that I had this thought about the "Harry Potter" books. Heard Harold Bloom on NPR waxing philosophical about how JK Rowling is a bad writer because she used the phrase "stretch your legs" too many times. I thought this was rather nonsensical and for the most part was probably just Bloom trying to be difficult, as he sometimes does (probably my favorite Bloomism is his insistence that in "As you like it," Orlando is quite aware that "Ganymede" is Rosalind and is just pretending not to know in order to flirt with her; the logic apparently being that it's just not realistic for him not to notice the resemblance, which isn't that different than Samuel Johnson's insistence that "Macbeth" is a flawed play because everyone knows that nobody can predict the future).

Anyway, listening to Bloom I realized that Rowling's style had made almost no impression on me one way or another, and the only thing I could remember were the characters and the story. That's good writing to me. I can't think of any crime writers who have really affected me this way, or perhaps I just pay more attention to style in crime fiction because it seems to be an important part of the genre. I first mentioned Rankin as not giving me any "wow" moments; that doesn't mean he's totally smooth - does trip me up from time to time, esp. using a lot of incomplete sentences in a way that felt forced. I only noticed this the last time around on audio. I listen to audio books out of necessity - long commute, which is often the only time I have to "read" - but it's also a good exercise every once in a while anyway. It's a lot easier to notice who writes clunky, expository dialogue and who uses the same word a few times too many.

Westlake/Stark and Grafton work particularly well on audio I think; and Robert Forster's reading of Block's "Hit Man" is priceless. Rankin works better for me in print.


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