View Full Version : Setting the scene: wondrous wordcraft or run-on sentence?
10th December 2003, 07:54 AM
I am currently in the middle of Paul Di Filippo's A Mouthful of Tongues: Her Totipotent Tropicanalia (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1587155060/002-4185732-9192055). Of this novel, Publishers Weekly writes "truly wondrous wordcraft and lush and sometimes playful use of language." So far, I have enjoyed the novel, and yes, there is plenty of wondrous wordcraft. The following passage from the opening paragraph of Part Two, however, gave me pause:Around the entire columned perimeter of the broad white-painted veranda that wrapped three sides of the Blue Afternoon Hotel, save where interrupted by flights of street-seeking blue-washed steps on east, south and west (along the north wall, fence-shielded from passersby, only trash canisters, slop pails, discarded furniture, broken pottery), grew an assortment of tall shrubs, leaves like green thumbprints, their riotous vitality barely constrained by the day-to-day efforts of a shabby-hatted, mahogany-faced Dartpipe gardener currently trimming them in the heat of midday with an irregularly languorous snick-snick of his long-handled shears.It seems a bit much for one sentence, doesn't it?
10th December 2003, 08:05 AM
The infamous gorged-snake construction. Usually the domain of newspaper journalists ("The victim, 25, who was a father of two and worked as a bricklayer in the Western Suburbs of Sydney, and was believed to be a Parramatta supporter, was last seen the vicinity of his Hurstville home at 5.00 last night"). Jane Austen isn't afraid of it, either- I believe she actually managed a sentence in Persuasion that ran for nearly two pages. But don't quote me on that. Or her.
10th December 2003, 08:46 AM
The problem I have with those sentences is that I can't rememer what the noun is by the time I get to the verb. Then I have to go read it again. The verb "grew" is the 54th word in that sentence. Get to the point!
10th December 2003, 12:58 PM
It reads like a contender for the Bulwer Lytton contest.
10th December 2003, 01:57 PM
I'l bet that, six months from now, he'll come out and say that it was a reductio ad absurdum in reaction to the current literary fashion of concentrating on wordplay to the exclusion of all else.
10th December 2003, 05:00 PM
One of mark twains:
This last summer, when I was on my way back to Vienna from the Appetite- Cure in the mountains, I fell over a cliff in the twilight, and broke some arms and legs and one thing or another, and by good luck was found by some peasants who had lost an ass, and they carried me to the nearest habitation, which was one of those large, low, thatch-roofed farm-houses, with apartments in the garret for the family, and a cunning little porch under the deep gable decorated with boxes of bright colored flowers and cats; on the ground floor a large and light sitting-room, separated from the milch-cattle apartment by a partition; and in the front yard rose stately and fine the wealth and pride of the house, the manure-pile. That sentence is Germanic, and shows that I am acquiring that sort of mastery of the art and spirit of the language which enables a man to travel all day in one sentence without changing cars.
10th December 2003, 05:03 PM
Ever read Faulkner? Old Man has a few two-to-three page sentences in it...
Yah, it's running on, but if it works, it works. I like that paragraph, myself. :)
10th December 2003, 09:38 PM
Twain's, you can follow. Fillipo's is a chore.
It's the difference between See what I can do! and See what I can create!
11th May 2004, 05:32 PM
I just read in Booklist a review of Use Once, then Destroy by Conrad Williams. I have not read the book, but from the review it sounds like Williams is another author who enjoys "wondrous wordcraft":Williams is a word-drunk describer whose prose can become so clotted with colorful, sensual vocabulary that it must be reread to grasp narrative elements, and many readers will feel daunted. But Williams is also a genuine, deeply macabre spellbinder whose admirers will flat out adore him.:sigh: Yet another book to add to my ever-growing "To Read" list. :)
12th May 2004, 08:38 AM
Last week's Onion had a news brief that summed up my feeling about writing like this:
Masturbatory Prose Style Fails To Reach Climax
NEW YORK—Writer Terrence Hendrie's debut novel I, Me, Eye, with its lengthy sentences and elaborate footnotes, failed to result in a climax, sources reported Monday. "Hendrie really works himself into a frenzy, massaging his love for obscure vocabulary," bookstore owner Robert Silvers said of the 385-page novel, which opens, "Adam, his serpentine ponytail flapping freely in the wintertide dithers, frostbitten grapewine bouche pursed around a smoldering Camel, hands gripping a Dachshund-eared copy of Hesse's Damien, which he recalled borrowing from his Cambridge roommate Geoffrey—young Geoffrey, how Adam chided him for his nostalgie de la boue." "Then, after 385 pages, the wanking-off ends abruptly, leaving the reader unsatisfied." Silvers added that the book's attempts at humor were too dry.
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