Back from Spain, exhausted, my mind full of new ideas and insights about language and literature, so generously offered at the AEDEI conference in Cáceres.
Despite tiredness, I had a long convo with my husband this evening about adequate vs brilliant writers, writerly 'career' trajectories, PR opps and luck etc.. I then found this article 'Good Writing vs Talented Writing' by Maria Popova, on the ever brilliant Brain Pickings site. It says all I wanted to say but didn't articulate.
I get fed up reading hyped books that fall far short. Spare me from the ordinary, mundane prose of so many writers and the overblown PR that goes along with them.
In the article Popova talks about the book About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, and Five Interviews by author and literary critic Samuel Delany in which he synthesizes insights from thirty-five years of teaching CW.
This quote I love:
'The talented writer often uses rhetorically interesting, musical, or lyrical phrases that are briefer than the pedestrian way of saying “the same thing.” The talented writer can explode, as with a verbal microscope, some fleeting sensation or action, tease out insights, and describe subsensations that we all recognize, even if we have rarely considered them before; that is, he or she describes them at greater length and tells more about them than other writers.'
'Either in content or in style, in subject matter or in rhetorical approach, fiction that is too much like other fiction is bad by definition.'
'Good writing is clear. Talented writing is energetic. Good writing avoids errors. Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.
Why is so much ordinary fiction taken as being good? Why are many so-so books given acres of attention in the media etc.? Why do agents and publishers, both, seem to love the mediocre and mundane? It all baffles me, I have to say.