The popular thing seems to be books that sell by the pound and are 43% adjectives, adverbs, and sawdust by weight. This is not for me.

Anne Rice was one author recommended to me by all kinds of folks.  They swore it was literature, not horror, not base genre fic.  Oh, they lied! Page after page of descriptive foreplay, but never any action.  Ceiling-high draperies:  pillars of velvet, black as the temptations of angels, pooling like molten darkness on the pale marble of the boudoir; a geisha’s crowning glory brushing the porcelain of her hips…and still no verb in the verbiage. We might move on to a character’s eyes, lambent and hungry, or his hands, languid and cool, or his hair, which framed his face in hanging curls, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing…but isn’t someone going to DO something? No?

Occasionally there would be a line about killing a family, setting the house on fire, fleeing the country, making a new friend, fighting an old enemy, and plotting a course to a safe house, but then it was another dozen pages of Better Homes and Mausoleums, and then I fell asleep. It’s the sort of book I like to forget, accidentally-on-purpose, in airport lounges, or wing across the room if I’ve eaten my Wheaties. But recommend it to a friend? A real friend? Never.

Miss Eleanor Gould was hired as a copyeditor at the New Yorker and worked there for 54 years. David Remnick wrote a lovely remembrance of her for the magazine in 2005.  In it he says, “She shaped the language of the magazine, always striving for a kind of Euclidean clarity—transparent, precise, muscular.” When it comes to prose, who could ask for anything more? (Or less?)

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