Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More Is Less

Saints and Sinners by Edna O'Brien

This opening of a story, "Old Wounds," is what passes among the refined literary crowd as good writing:

"In our front garden, there were a few clumps of devil's pokers-- spears of smoldering crimson when in bloom, and milky yellow when not. But my mother's sister and her family, who lived closer to the mountain, had a ravishing garden: tall festoons of pinkish-white roses, a long low border of glorious golden tulips, and red dahlias that, even in the hot sun, exuded the coolness of velvet. When the wind blew in a certain direction, the perfume of the roses vanquished the smell of dung from the yard, where the sow and her young pigs spent their days foraging and snortling. My aunt was so fond of the piglets that she gave each litter pet names, sometimes the same pet names, which she appropriated from. . . ." Etc. etc. etc.


Is this how to open a story?

Has the reader thrown the book across the room?

No writer today can afford to open a short story or even a novel with such dawdling prose. Get to the friggin' point! No one has time today for such shit. This isn't 1835 upper-class England lounging around the estate.

When you the reader after many arduous attempts do make it through a few of the stories, you find the punchlines range from the ordinary to the maudlin. Each is overwritten so as to hinder communication with the reader. We get the idea, Edna. You write very well. Delicately and finely well. Quite impressive. Not compelling. Less is more. Thank you.

PUBLISHER: Back Bay Books
REVIEWED BY: King Wenclas

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