RARA-AVIS: [Bend it like Carver! Not!] Re: HEART OF DARKNESS

From: Mario Taboada ( matrxtech@yahoo.com)
Date: 24 Jul 2003

Warning: Softboiled reminiscence.

When I was in college, my instructor in creative writing brought to class a Conrad passage very similar to the one Miker quoted and, after reading it, triumphantly asked the class:

How would you improve on this?

[This instructor was of the minimalist (Ray Carver) school.]

Nobody said anything until I (emboldened youth) said:

Nothing. It's brilliant.

Instructor: Don't you think the sentences are long and convoluted? Don't you see how it drips with adjectives and adverbs?

Emboldened youth: No. They are very clear. (Class beginning to wake up.)

Instructor (almost shouting): Do you think Raymond Carver would write something like this?

Reckless youth: No. I don't think Carver COULD have. Carver bores me. Conrad is cool. He had interesting things to say. You can't say them better than he said them.

My assignment: To rewrite a couple of pages of Conrad in the minimalist style.

What I turned in: The two pages, unchanged, with a note saying "This editor has no suggestions".

My instructor, who was also a good man, loved it. He never again brought up Conrad as an example of bad writing.

He also had this animosity towards the writing of Thomas Hardy. I can't understand why.

I still love Conrad *and* Carver (I grossly exagerated in order to make a point, the lowest kind of youthful rethoric to be found anywhere. Well, there goes any nobility of character you might have suspected in me.)



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