Archives for 8 June 2012

Style is the rocket

‘Don’t mock the afflicted.’ This is a good rule, but it needs a rider: ‘Unless they choose to afflict themselves, and treat their affliction as cause for pride.’ Colour-blindness is not funny; but a colour-blind man who should proclaim the virtues of his superior eyesight, and sneer at all those who suffer under the illusion that red is different from green, would be the stuff of immortal comedy. He would be laughed at heartily, and have no one to blame for it but himself.

There is a kind of literary colour-blindness which occurs, for the most part, only among highly cultivated people; for such folly in nature is self-correcting. It takes two opposite forms. One is the belief that prose style is all; that a work of literature is only as good as its individual sentences, and that a bland or pedestrian prose style is in itself sufficient to condemn a story as subliterary dreck. The second form I shall discuss later. [Read more…]