I am of the firm opinion that if Salman Rushdie tried to make a living as an online writer, he’d starve.
Why? Because he’s a master of the loop, of delightfully long and punctuated sentences that would send editors of online portals, much like Microsoft Word, into a tizzy, and they’d both come up with eerily similar suggestions to the tune of: “fragment – consider revising”. The unfortunate truth is that few today appreciate the beauty of long sentences, articulately written.
Don’t get me wrong. I know well the use of periods and their impacts – as Isaac Babel the brilliant Soviet playwright who was shot by the Stalin regime, (not, I suspect, for his love of periods) put it : “No iron can pierce a heart with such force as a period put just at the right place.” I am all for periods and their uses and well understand that brevity can have an impact in a way long-winded sentences can’t. But, I believe that it takes a superior writer to write a lengthy, masterful sentence. There is nothing more pleasing than reading a long, perfectly punctuated sentence, much like the ones Emily Bronte writes so adroitly in Wuthering Heights.
By whining about this issue, I am not, for a moment, pretending to be a superior writer, one that the world has not recognized yet but for whom it will hold a bicentenary two hundred years from now in a belated attempt to assuage the guilt of not having granted her due recognition (though that would be nice). I am merely lamenting the fact that editors today, and I generalize here so pardon me those who do not fall into this miserable category, are incapable of appreciating a bloody good sentence just because it exceeds what they feel is the right length.
Where is all this coming from? You guessed it. From someone who recently asked me if I could shorten my sentences – you write well, except that the sentences are a bit, er well, a bit long. That was his only gripe – that the sentences were long – the only disqualifying factor. If I made it short (like some of the extremely mediocre writing on his site) then he could consider hiring me for which, mind you, I’d be paid some measly amount until “you prove yourself and get maximum hits”. It’s all about SEO, you know, he added sheepishly. Stuff it, I told him. Not in so many words, though, unfortunately. Gosh I do want to say it once to someone real and not on my blog!
We now live in an age of instant gratification – there is this mercenary, make-it-short attitude towards everything. Publishers look for the next quick book to become a best seller, one that’s produced quite magically and sells a million copies. Who has the time for tomes, no matter how well written? So, what about the people who seriously love to read writers like Salman Rushdie? Well, one word clubs them all wonderfully together into a nebulous mass – minority.
And that is the essential problem. That I am in the minority. Not that I am not going to, or can, do much about it. I sort of like being here, in the minority I mean. Am used to it, really. Go to a shop and ask for party-wear dresses and be prepared to be treated to piles and piles of outfits that look more like layered, fluffy puddings than dresses. Ask for a shoe and you’ll be shown an array of super-shiny, high-heeled monsters that look more like miniature rocket ships than something you’d put on your little one’s feet. Wonder aloud about who wears this stuff and you’d be told that this was very much in demand and was “fast-selling”. Sigh.
Back to the editor, though, (yup, not going to forget him in a while) – maybe someday I’ll write that book which has been exploding in my head for, well for as long as I can remember. Then I’ll send him a copy with a note, which, of course, will not be short, but long, with many punctuations.
Now there’s a happy thought.
One response to “Minority Report”
interesting! agree with you. long, complex sentences need talent and ingenuity. Marquez and his unending sentences ….but brevity requires self control and skill which too appeals, like a haiku poem or a hemingway story. you’re right though; brevity is fast degenerating into mind numbing staccato.