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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Less Is More

Whenever you rewrite you have this little ditty in the back of your brain. To amplify Hemingway's line further of course is to say you can cut down your fiction and your readers will still feel what you have cut. Of course connotation is what we are talking about and this comes down to the writers responsibility in the rewrite. Too many words for the writer becomes the readers burden. And the truth is efficiency isn't just a tag line, the story is better told by what's implied.

Certainly Jonathan Franzen is exempt from this rule. His New Yorker prose is built on information and you have to get yourself ready to read the informational stream that screams along. I'm not sure why writers like Franzen feel it necessary to hit us over the head with everything including the kitchen sink, but clearly he was given permission and he exercises it freely. If you read Look Homeward Angel then you see the same everything but the kitchen sink philosophy at play even though Max Perkins worked mightily to thin Wolfe's prose. Still it is very dense.

Which throws the whole less is more axiom on it's head. Less is more unless you are a writer who declares more is more and you best keep up and wade through reams of back story to prove the point. The fact is once writers get to a certain level they are not edited as much. We see this in the fat books of our biggest literary stars who can write just about anything they want and not have it questioned. I suppose in that way less is more should be updated to: less is more, except for the few.

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Books by William Hazelgrove