Re: RARA-AVIS: Archer/Ross Macdonald

From: Stephen Burridge (
Date: 21 Aug 2007

An eloquent post with which I agree almost entirely.

I will note that I don't have a problem with people analyzing the
"carpentry" of anyone's writing, and in fact I think such analysis can be productive of more than just nice papers. It can help the reader appreciate what's going on in a book, and presumably can help other writers improve their craft as well.

My note on Macdonald's similes was not intended as that kind of analysis. I did find them a little offputting at first, before he won my "sympathy" and I began to appreciate his writing better. Others have noted that they were put off by Macdonald's style, and this seemed relevant.

Stephen Burridge

On 8/21/07, Jacques Debierue <> wrote:

> --- In <>,
> "Stephen Burridge"
> <stephen.burridge@...> wrote:
> >
> > Macdonald's way with similes can seem forced and excessive at times.
> > I believe this is a common criticism.
> Perhaps, but reading older literature requires an adjustment. And
> there is no real positive evolution of style but something different:
> changes in discourse, different mechanisms of mediation between the
> written word and what goes on in the head of the reader, changes in
> the perception of time, etc. You could say that Shakespeare's
> metaphors and jokes seem forced at times, you could say that he is
> wordy, etc. You could say that Dickens should have used the scissors
> instead of pouring on so much stuff into any one novel. You could say
> all that but their works wouldn't change.
> What I'm aiming at is that any writer needs the sympathy of the
> reader. Bad writers don't do a very good job of getting such sympathy,
> but the good ones usually do. Which is why Shakespeare can hook you,
> and why Ross Macdonald can hook you. If you choose to look at the
> carpentry of his writing, you could end up with a nice paper, but
> that's several steps removed from the experience of reading.
> Best,
> mrt

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