Wednesday, April 06, 2005

violent prose

via Heikki @pynchon-l:
"[...] Four years and a series of catastrophic world events later, the new production, Saturday, is here. It begins with its hero, the successful neurosurgeon Henry Perowne, gazing through the window of his house at what might well be another major calamity: A plane is flying over London, on fire. Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow also famously opens with a burning projectile over London, and whether or not McEwan is alluding to it, the comparison is instructive. Pynchon: "A screaming comes across the sky." McEwan: "Above the usual deep and airy roar is a straining, choking, banshee sound growing in volume-both a scream and a sustained shout, an impure, dirty noise that suggests unsustainable mechanical effort," etc., etc. Pynchon's sentence contains no adjectives; McEwan's two clauses contain ten. The desired effect is vividness, proximity; the result is the opposite, with the adjectives muffling the screaming, so that it is no longer screaming but only screaming-that-is-being-written-about. Few contemporary writers are as fixated as McEwan on physical violence; yet no one's prose is less violent than his. [...]."