Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Purple supernova prose

Ah, publishing in 2111. I didn't think I'd be up for this Road Trip Wednesday topic, not really being wise at this stage in my career to the intricacies of publishing as an industry, but then I read this article by Zsuzsi Gartner on the cult of the sentence, and was reminded of a thought I've been having for the past couple weeks – namely, that expansive, sweeping, purple prose is due for a comeback.

You see everywhere the advice not to overwrite, not to maunder on past a reader's attention. Gone are the days that a two-page description of a field can hold a reader's interest! we are told. And yes, this much is true. Atmospheric, exquisitely described, adjectived-out-of-its-brain prose is not a contemporary market-buster, especially in YA.

But Gartner – even if he later channels Martin Amis, at whose dismissal of our discipline (and I really do think of it as a discipline) we all in the YA world have rightfully cringed in recent memory – makes a point worth thinking about:
You would think all writers write because they are head-over-heels in love with sentences, no? American author and editor Ben Marcus writes that in the literary world a false dichotomy has emerged: successful writers who can make readers feel by making them care about their characters, and writers who care more about language – the storytellers and the users of the language, and never the twain shall meet.
This is, of course, not true at all, even if the stereotype begs it. I just read Robert Paul Weston's Dust City, for example – a gritty, whimsical noir that features thaumaturgist-on-wolf torture, interspecies juvie hall brawls, and jam-packed magical action sequences – and on almost every page found myself re-reading beautiful, tight, masterfully composed sentences. And this is just the most recent example.

But that still isn't War and Peace or Gone with the Wind or Wuthering Heights or Doctor Faustus. So what I am thinking, is that on the 2111 publishing scene, these sweeping, lyrical, VERBOSE works will be back in style. Terseness will be out. Teens the world over will be clamoring for page-long sentences and purple, indigo prose.

On paper-thin, foldable pocket Kindles, of course.


  1. Sounds fantastic. More diversity, I say.

  2. I love the thought of that. I'm a fan of that style of writing in general, so the thought that it has a renewal sometime in the future is encouraging.


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