Twice as hard to cut it in half: Norman Maclean’s writing.

My writing has always leaned toward bloviation.  In my starry-eyed youth, I tore out a piece of Nabokov’s Despair and ate it; it’s lodged in my midsection, preserved intact, and has exerted an evil/good/evil force on my writing ever since.  I like complex, long sentences, with Tinker-Toy fragility (one actual grammarian’s sneeze and the whole thing collapses) and yes, I likes me the semicolon; I likes it a lot. 

I also like simplicity, though, both in writing and in life.  Give me a drrrrty realist any day of the week.  I’ve done some work recently with an outfit built around providing 100 word summaries of other media, and I have an account at 100 Words (unused).  It’s a good challenge for me, trying to pare it back.  It hurts, but it’s good hurt. 

Coming up at The Morning News today, along with the first match of this year’s Tournament of Books, is an article about some of the better film adaptations of books and stories.  An open subject, one I could gas on about at great length.  I was told to keep my contribution to 75 words.  75 words?  My husbandly-noncommittal-male grunts are longer than that.  I didn’t pick it, but the adaptation of Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It came to mind.  Great movie, and of course the scene where the father is home-schooling Norman in writing: young Norman brings in his essay/story and his father goes at it with a red pencil, not dictating changes so much as posing questions, and then he sends Norman off with his instructions for revision: "Half as long."  And then again.  When you’re limited, you have to be more choosy.  Every word has to be weighed for its value to the piece; instead of throwing it all at the wall and seeing what sticks (hello Condalmo!), you need to know exactly what you’re conveying.  It’s good practice for me.

I think I could say more about this, but I’ll restrain myself.


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