I love tackling books written prior to the 1940's. They wrote in a different voice - if that makes any sense at all.
Sadly, I realized that over the years authors have scaled down their depth and their writing styles to accomodate readers. Detailed descriptions of landscapes and well-worded emotional expressions used to form part of our vernacular. Now the echoing blast from a gun gets broken down to mili-seconds and stripped into words - which the editors eventually scratch out.
Do we no longer credit readers with brains? Or has illiteracy ratings guided us to a more depraved grammar in order to make our stories more readable? Or has self-publishing opened the door for writers who would normally not have made it to the shelf?
Where was he criticized for that? Shakespeare wrote for a very mixed batch. Because he was a shrewd businessman and invested in the theater he wrote for, he included the masses. But some of Shakespeare was never intended for them. He also wrote for the select few who sat on the stage and critiqued his works.
As for the style in which books used to be written, that was the style people liked to read. How fast one reads/understands depends on the size of a person's vocabulary. And maybe a bit of patience. :)
I'm new here - only just joined - but one of the things I used to tell students when I taught Creative Writing was that Thomas Hardy would never get published today. We are competing, as has already been said, and our audience's perception has changed. Most people who read, either electronically or with a real paper book, have brains. The only readers who are suspect are those who read the books "written" by so-called celebrities, although that is probably a rather sweeping generalisation!
I write for a fairly small niche market here in the UK, where what are now called "cosies" in the US are out of fashion with the publishing industry, but I still have readers to whom I wouldn't dream of writing down, and I don't think any writer should.
Lesley, I do think Thomas Hardy would've had some difficulties with the publishers of today. The competition has changed. One of the Sugababes has published an autobiographical book at age 16. It has sold more than my book. What could she possibly have to say?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not bitter, just confused. I want to encourage people to read more. I want to write for those who are satisfied with the typical format and I want to write for those who likes a poetic play on words mid-paragraph or a complex lead character. Is that impossible to do as those two reader types are far removed from one another?
I want to credit readers with brains. I don't just want to write for other authors.
I think you can blame Ernest Hemmingway for the more terse writing style that is prevalent today. Who wants to read pages of location description when you can be drawn into a story with so much less?
I don't think anyone will disagree that Hemmingway is a literary heavyweight. For the most part, the pared down style has improved fiction. As Elmore Leonard has said "I try to leave out the parts that people skip".
Stuart Matthew Davis
There's nothing like using landscape description to set a scene or convey mood. I think if it's well done and there's a tense through-line, it makes for exciting reading. (ie, Cormac McCarthy) I don't think it's the elements that are used that is the problem, but the way they are handled.
"Maximalism" has been making somewhat of a comeback in literary fiction to counter those writers who supposedly wrote in a more minimal style. (But if you look at Hemingway, even he knows how to write great description.) Raymond Carver has also taken the heat for the pared down style. I'm reading the original versions of his Gordon Lish edited stories and he originally intended a much richer narrative. It's interesting to see the greater nuances he was able to create using a more expanded style.
I think these things change when someone comes along and breaks out and changes things and starts a trend. Maybe it will be someone in this thread.
And doesn't Tana French write very lyrical work? And she's done quite well.
Hemmingway is indeed a legend. However, writing an entire book where the lead character is stuck in a boat fighting a shark stands to reason that a story can not run on occurence alone. The Old Man and the Sea has ample descriptions throughout.
HG Wells wrote War of the Worlds and compacted it to 120-odd pages. Though entertaining, it has so much descriptive value that Spielberg struggled to jamb it into a 2-hour blockbuster, and when it failed he said it was because the book was too intense.
Writing a modern-day Invisible Man and confining it to a dynamite stick the size of 120 pages, one has to admit that it would be unlikely to be a bestseller. The market has changed and we have to adapt. I understand this. But I want to perfect a writing style that would be adequate for the avid reader while enticing someone who doesn't consider himself to be a reader. In other words, I want to credit the readers with brains and encourage them to want to read more.
By the way, I love Elmore Leonard's style. One of the few authors who needs only one short sentence to fully explain a character. Read Glitz and Hunted. Brilliant!
J, I think I get what you're hoping to do with your writing.
I don't wonder whether Hardy could be published today: he couldn't - too baroque, mostly. If I may, I think Stephen Hamilton nailed what you're after - the style that reaches both the avid readers and the, er, less avid readers - in The Lock Artist (I know, I know: I keep harpin' on how well-written the novel is).
Hamilton's a master at his craft, but he also knows how to reach into our guts with story and style (both avid readers' and those with ADD). Perhaps that's the reason he took home the Edgar. I ate that novel up for its story and for Hamilton's fine writing style, but I didn't even realize he'd written for a YA audience (not that the sugababes are not avid readers: some are . . . and some, on the other hand, like their literature a little more simply written than Hardy's).
Wouldn't it be interesting to take a book like Mockinjay, or anything by Connelley or Gerestein, back into the late nineteenth, early twentieth, and see what publishers would do with it?