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…]

A Reader’s Manifesto, by B. R. Myers

Even before B. R. Myers lobbed this magnificent stinkbomb into the mailbox of the New York literary establishment, I think most of us knew what this book tells us. Yes, the emperor has no clothes; yes, the book reviews will praise the most ridiculous tripe rather than risk losing an advertiser, and the bigger the author’s name, the more blatantly they will cringe and fawn. And yes, too many ‘literary’ authors today have inherited all the pretentiousness of their predecessors, but none of their skills. After all, why learn skills when attitude is so much easier?

For readers, this is pretty good fun, and Myers’ caustic wit makes the journey doubly worthwhile. But for writers, it is a message that we ignore at our peril. [Read more…]