|I have a book. It's called The Twist, and written by one Richard Calder. The front cover quotes William Gibson as saying of it "dark, edgy and inflicted with just the right degree of lyricism". If you've ever read Gibson you'll know that "just the right degree of lyricism", in his mind, is "gibbering on like a person with tourette's syndrome who believes that every word in the dictionary is a swearword, as well as some that aren't in the dictionary". You may think that's a horrible clumsy simile, but that's because you haven't read this book. In comparison, my simile is a masterpiece of graceful writing.|
"Further in, the architecture becomes as imposing as any commemorating notables interred in some Brobdingnagian Père Lachaise."How does one come to compose a sentence like that? Did he originally write "further in, the architecture becomes imposing", and then someone asked him "how imposing did it become?" and he replied "hm, I don't know, about as imposing as any architecture that commemorates notables in some Brobdingnagian Père Lachaise, I suppose", and the other person said "oh, that imposing. Now I get it. You should put that in the book, it's much more illuminating."
Surely the point of drawing a simile is to give the reader a bit of additional insight, or possibly just instill a little mood. Generally, that mood shouldn't be rage at the author. And that's just my objection to the matter of the sentence. There's also the problem with its form. A first reading will tend to make 'commemorating notables' a noun-phrase, forcing the reader to double-take to get the proper meaning of the sentence - what meaning there is to be had, anyway.
Now you might think "tsk, you've just picked out the worst sentence from the book, haven't you?" Well, I might have, it's a pretty nasty sentence, but even if it is worst, it isn't worst by far. To pick another example entirely at random:
"Here, Boot Hill transforms itself into a place of dead giants, interred for long centuries in a massive Golgotha, a petrified jungle of cistic prominences, a towering boneyard."Wow, I want a Boot Hill - that's much cooler than Optimus Prime. Seriously though, someone's been coughing up adjectives all over the inside of this book, and it isn't pretty.
"And these bones have been carbonised, fused into struts, beams, architraves, girders, lintels; all is shrouded in black, a pall that honours the town's contemporary population, the unknown souls who hide behind shuttered windows and barred doors, and those who wander restless, in the black, refracted light of the funereal day."Oh alas.
But who am I to call such writing rubbish? Science Fiction Age says it's "stunning" (which, admittedly, might not have been a compliment), The New York Review Of Science Fiction says it's "as rich, dense and intricate as any recent SF" (which, admittedly, also might not have been a compliment), and Washington Post Book World apparently claims it's "brilliant". I suppose some people like this sort of thing - it certainly conforms to the "show, don't tell" philosophy of writing that I hate. After 66 pages, about two pages of story have been told. [12:00] [6 comments]