My Comment Box is


My Comment Box is Getting Full

Tom maintains below that one form of writing in a simple sentence is better than another. I would contend that they serve different purposes. I will point out that the writer considered one of the Masters of American Prose, and writer of (I believe ) 4 of the top 100 novels of the century (according to the Random House List) violated these rules right and left. The following is an excerpt from what is considered his very finest work The Golden Bowl.

from The Golden Bowl Henry James

He handled it with tenderness, with ceremony, making a place for it on a small satin mat. "My Golden Bowl," he observed—and it sounded on his lips as if it said everything. He left the important object—for as "important" it did somehow present itself—to produce its certain effect. Simple but singularly elegant, it stood on a circular foot, a short pedestal with a slightly spreading base, and, though not of signal depth, justified its title by the charm of its shape as well as by the tone of its surface. It might have been a large goblet diminished, to the enhancement of its happy curve, by half its original height.

Now, you may choose to say that you do not care for this type of prose. But to imply that it would somehow be better to say

He handled it, making a place on the mat for it. He left the object to produce an effect. By its shape it was a bowl. It might have been a goblet diminished by half its original height.

is better writing is simply to miss the point of the prose. This is my central contention. We follow rules promulgated by the followers and admirers of Hemingway that are not always successful, true, or useful. I think one would be hard pressed to prove, by empirical proofs, rather than mere assertion that, "She spread the quilt, smoothing out all the wrinkles," is better always and in every context than , "She lovingly spread the quilt."

That is the sum of the argument. Writing is both a craft and an art. The rules of writing as art often undo those of writing as craft. I prefer writing as art when I have a choice. I'd rather read one sentence of a work by James than an entire Hemingway novel. (And it is likely that properly done, they would take about equal amounts of time).

Bookmark and Share



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 29, 2002 6:06 PM.

One More Quibble Returning was the previous entry in this blog.

Visit Defensor Fidei Now my is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll