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View Diary: Bookflurries-Bookchat: Weaving a World for Readers (191 comments)

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  •  "Information has become the new character." (7+ / 0-)

    That was very interesting! I've been surprised at how many novels I've read lately that to me seem over-stuffed with details that are supposed to tell me more about the characters but don't. Kate Atkinson's books comes to mind. I like her plots and writing, and eventually I warm to her characters. But in the meantime, it seems to me that page after page gets bloated with unrevelatory detail, and I feel as if she's holding my head down in a bucket of them. I don't end up knowing more about the characters when I'm given long lists of their likes and dislikes. E.g. when I learn someone likes chocolate, the Beatles, a certain brand of candy bar, crocheted socks and so on, I don't feel I've learned much because these are things anyone of any temperament might like. But a writer friend is in love with Atkinson novels precisely because she feels this adds richness.

    "I am sure of very little, and I shouldn't be surprised if those things were wrong." Clarence Darrow

    by scilicet on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 08:38:02 PM PDT

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    •  Haven't read Atkinson, but the formula sounds like (6+ / 0-)

      fiction for readers too lazy to imagine for themselves. Sometimes I watch TV, instead of reading, because my brain is tired, and I want to be spoon-fed.

      There is often something show-off about a story "over-stuffed with details"; the author's wowing you with their orchestra of realism, and their own operatic voice, pulling it all together. Which, if you're David Foster Wallace, can be a show worth listening to.

      It seems to me harder, and far more magical, to intuit which essential details you have to tell, and which incidental ones you can trust your readers to discover organically, for themselves.

      It's like giving directions. Anyone can give directions like Mapquest does, over two whole pages. Some people have that rare skill, where they mention the three crucial landmarks that everyone driving the right way will see. Then you get to your destination, without cramming two pages of bumph into your skull - instead, you get to enjoy the view as you drive.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 09:08:50 PM PDT

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      •  I agree (5+ / 0-)

        I know it's all subjective, but I'll never understand the appeal of mapquest type descriptions. (I think Robert B. Parker was very prone to do that. Which is great for readers who know Boston well but I always wanted some quick impressionistic description so I'd remember what kind of street X or Y was.)

        Speaking of David Foster Wallace, I'm very sorry to say that several hours into Infinite Jest (audio), I got so impatient with all the detail that I stopped. I felt as if I'd learned a million tiny things about each character without ever being guided toward liking any of them. But I'd just finished The Orphan Master's Son, with it's gripping recreation of N. Korea, and I think maybe any book I tried to read then would have suffered by comparison because I loved Orphan Master's Son so much.

        "I am sure of very little, and I shouldn't be surprised if those things were wrong." Clarence Darrow

        by scilicet on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 09:20:33 PM PDT

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        •  Actually, I had a similar Infinite Jest experience (5+ / 0-)

          and ran aground after about 50 pages. Though the videotape was intriguing me. So now you know I'll use a book as an example, although I haven't read it - furthermore, that I'm shameless enough to admit this, instead of discreetly saying nothing. It is a bit embarrassing, but I find it far more amusing.

          I've read some shorter pieces by DFW, which sucked me right in. He certainly has the skills to back up showing-off. Infinite Jest sits on my shelf. One day, in an ambitious and whimsical mood, I'll open it again.

          Another way of seeing these authors who thunder like Wagner (inventor of the original wall of sound) is, they get so busy with their own voice, that reading is no longer a collaboration. There's no room to pour yourself into the book. Which the greatest books, that speak to our depths, all give us. So we read them again every five or ten years, and they stay familiar, yet change with us.

          A few R&BLers have been praising The Orphan Master's Son.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 10:00:13 PM PDT

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    •  i automatically start skimming long descriptions.. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk, Brecht, P Carey, RiveroftheWest

      they often don't add anything and slow down the story.

      it's interesting to consider how our "information age" technology is impacting authorial style.

      Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. - Gandalf the Grey

      by No Exit on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 07:53:31 AM PDT

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