Friday, August 05, 2016

Lavishly Gloriously Overwritten Books

I've been thinking about Rick Blechta's recent post on the death of description. He discussed the use of detailed descriptions in books written in the 19th and early 20th century. Description in books currently published just give a nod to elements that comprised lengthy paragraphs in the past.

For some reason I've developed a passion to reread some of my favorite books. One of them, Not As A Stranger, is the greatest medical novel ever written. However, it is so lavishly, gloriously, overwritten that it makes War and Peace look like a Tweet.

I wonder if it would be published now. It's too superior to be tossed in a wastebasket. But on the other hand, editors are too often overworked, overburdened, and over bottom-lined. They simply do not have the time to straighten out this kind of book. I suspect the sender would get a short email. "Please cut and resubmit."

Many of my "favorite" books are lengthy. Characters were well-developed and complex. On rereading some of these novels I'm surprised at how little I understood the themes when I read them in my 20s. So it's odd the books have stuck with me for so long.

One of the standard questions authors are asked at presentations is "What is your favorite book?" Mine has always been Green Dolphin Street. It's been a long time since I've read it so it will be interesting to see if I bring fresh eyes to that book also.

A number of people have heard me give that reply so a book club last year decided to read it. It was immediately and universally disliked and the group abandoned it at once. I suspect because it, too, depended on the same kind of lavish description Rick mentioned.

As a writer I'm very alert to lines that slow the book down. In my own writing, on second drafts I check to see if sentences can be deleted and if I'm repeating descriptions. We simply live in a very fast-paced world.

Tweet or die.


Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Love your last line -- "Tweet or die." An exercise in writing discipline for me to send out a tweet :)

Charlotte Hinger said...

Frankie, I've got to get on top of marketing. This is my Achilles heel.

Eileen Goudge said...

Great post, Charlotte. I was delighted to see your mention of GREEN DOLPHIN STREET. You may be interested to know, Elizabeth Goudge was a distant relation of mine. I first learned of her through my Aunt Betty, who visited her in England and kept up a correspondence with her namesake until her death. I spoke with Elizabeth over the phone when I first visited England, in the 1980's. She knew of me through my aunt but was too elderly and ill by then to receive visitors. We had a nice chat over the phone, however. I was able to tell her how much I loved GREEN DOLPHIN STREET,which is a favorite novel of my own. Old-fashioned in terms of the writing perhaps, but a timeless tale nonetheless. She was a gracious lady and a gifted writer.