Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Prose Style

There was a time when I cared about prose style; more than that, I cared about it more than anything else in literature. I've been thinking about this lately; as I wonder about starting writing some fiction again; and what book to read next. Like I used to care about music being "the best", its not that I don't anymore, rather than it seems further away from ever. You watch X-Factor and there are some talented people on there - albeit mostly in the big set pieces accompanying the contestants - or see a live band; or - like tonight watch Masterchef, and there's so much to admire about the striving to be better. Yet, there's something else I think, which is kind of missing at the moment - not that it is missing, necessarily - but its missing from my life. The "caring" for exceptional writing; at what point did I give up looking? At what point did I stop trying to emulate it?

For there's something brave about the best writing - it's not just words on page, not even just sense and story, but something more than that; words carved from the granite; and I guess the further we are from having read anything that reaches those heights, the more important and vital it actually seems - yet its not that we just want writers like (as an example) DeLillo or Roth at their best - but want that talent to be turned on the times in which we live; that in fact to write a relevant prose for our times is actually to write a brilliant prose for our times; that it's not enough to think we live in degraded times, or to emulate the best writing of the past; we need a writing that does a job today. I'm thinking its not that the prose itself is impossible; but that sometimes it seems that it is the trying that is impossible. The over praising of somewhat style-less books, or writers who are clearly extremely talented but writing as if the last twenty, fifty or hundred years hasn't happened. Not sure where I'm going with this other than a sense of thinking: yes, it's still worth fighting for, looking for; and that the other things that writing can do - telling a story, making us laugh, whatever... - are valuable but its the other that matters. In the dullness of the everyday, in the bright shining light of other artforms - whether HBO drama, or some internet pyrotechnics - words on page can still be the most remarkable of currencies. We have devalued the coinage if we forget this.

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