Sunday, September 12, 2010
TSS: How important is the WRITING to you?
To me, if a book has beautiful, evocative language, it goes a long way towards making up for lacks in character development or plot. I can sometimes get lost in lovely language. (It even makes me alliterate.) I love it when it's done well, such as in Kate Grenville's The Secret River, which is one of my favorite books mainly because of Grenville's fabulous use of the English language. Words can do seriously amazing things, and when she wields them, she wields them well.
That's not to say that beautiful language is always necessary for the writing to be good. In some cases, beautiful language would make no sense. But as long as the narratorial voice comes through strong and I feel a connection, I can still enjoy a book. I may not fall in love with it the way I would with the lyrical style noted above, but I'd still like it. An author who I think has a great voice in this more frank and open manner is Sherman Alexie. He has my attention at the first sentence and pretty much never loses me after that, even though his language is completely different than Grenville's.
Writing can obviously make-or-break a reading experience- if I don't like the writing style, then I am unlikely to like a book, regardless of how intricately woven the plot is or how smart the author may be. I think many people feel the same way. But I think one genre where writing style is far too under-appreciated is non-fiction. Non-fiction has this stigma of being dry and fusty and boring, but there are many, many writers out there compiling facts and presenting them in engaging and witty and clever ways. More than in a novel, quality writing in non-fiction can really get me far more interested in a subject than I might ever have conceived.
What about you? Does writing make or break a book for you, or is there something else more important you look for?