I can weed out absolutely awful atrocious writing.

But the difference between good writing and perfect writing? I am lost.  Sort of.

Perfect: Lydia Davis, Zadie Smith, Alice Munro, To Kill A Mockingbird, Toni Morrison

Good: Life of Pi, Kite Runner, Lena Dunham, Nora Ephron, BJ Novak

Pretty Good: JK. Rowling

Coherent: Leandra Medine, The Fault in Our Stars, The Da vinci Code, Mindy Kaling

Cheesy: Nicholas Sparks

So Bad: Twilight, PS. I Love You

Ok, so.  What if Lena Dunham isn’t destined for literary history? What does that mean? she is clearly capable of complex, insightful thoughts and coherency.  What does it mean if Lydia Davis is destined for literary history? Her economic way with words is Hemingway-like, with little props implying the convoluted human world they exist in (synecdoche?) but when is plain-spoken considered genius and when is it just plain?

Related.  Isn’t it interesting but not so surprising that some of the most lucrative writers aren’t very good writers at all? That some of the greatest writers of all time wrote only one book during their life?

***

How much does craft matter? The Harry Potter books weren’t full of remarkable prose, J.K. Rowling used the same phrases over and over again.  Harry’s untidy hair, Ron turned crimson, people spoke coldly.  However, the lack of diverse sentences doesn’t necessarily mean anything–we have more or less the same range of of emotions on a day-to-day basis.  If anything, it was more conducive to storytelling. Reading Harry Potter,  The world she created, all the secret nooks and crannies, however derivative, were so magical to me, it seemed that merely observing it was enough.  Pensives, vanishing cabinets, Floo powder, Room of Requirement, Horcruxes, villain backstories,  they were all magical.  They were all inspired by some past literary device, but they were still distinctively part of the universe of Harry Potter.

However, I do understand, for the high-brow sophisticates, it’s hard to focus on the story when all you notice is the shoddy stitching.

 

September 29, 2015

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