I read two novels on my vacation at Ross Lake that would be considered “literary.” I feel like an ignorant rube, an uncultured, unrefined, uneducated boor: I don’t really like literary novels. I find them, ahem, boring. Or at least, I found these two boring. If I hadn’t been stranded in the middle of nowhere with nothing else to read, I doubt I would have finished either of these books.
One of them is considered a classic of 20th century American literature, the kind of book that English majors are forced to read in their American lit courses. (I managed to skip that class, took Major Southern Writers instead and still didn’t have to read this book, lucky me—until I chose to, last week. Ugh.)
I actually liked the story and the writing was beautiful, sometimes stunningly so, but I got tired of the main character wandering around, describing her surroundings, and ruminating. I wanted something to happen.
To be fair, some of the ruminations worked well, created a shorthand in the story that the author could then use to describe or encompass the present action, which was very effective. But most of the ruminations and descriptions drew attention to themselves and away from the story.
It could have been a powerful and haunting book. As it was, it grew wearing and tedious. I just wanted the author to get on with the story. When she did, it was good. When she didn’t, I actually skipped whole paragraphs (which is blasphemous, a sacrilege)—I was that bored.
Moral: I must be ruthless with my own writing. Beautiful prose will only carry a reader so far, and she will only tolerate it for so long if it’s digressing from the story. Cut. Cut. Cut.