Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Power of Simplicity or The Pretentious Literary Elite

Alright! Now that I've paid my homage to Stephen King, its time to pay homage to simplicity and more importantly to speak out against the pretentious literary elite.

Just to be clear, I have nothing against complexity. I enjoy convoluted prose (if done properly) as much as the next guy. But what I can't stand is the assumption perpetuated by the literary elite that anything simple is not good enough. I take exception to this. I have read best-selling authors (Stephen King & J K Rowling, the prime examples) and I've read award-winning authors (Salman Rushdie & Arundati Roy, for example). And I'm convinced that King is no less a writer than Rushdie and in the same vein Rowling is no less a writer than Roy.

What convinced me to finally write this, is the comments of a supposedly acclaimed literary critic who lays into King and Rowling for being too simple. So does simple = bad? Lets see, while you can read Rowling and King in a smooth flow, almost every sentence from Rushdie has to be read at least twice to get its full import. Reading Rushdie is an act of faith. He makes it so difficult to understand his story that often the reader must keep faith that the point will eventually emerge through the fog of words created by the writer. With King and Rowling, on the other hand, you can simply enjoy the story.

Rushdie's style constantly gives me the feeling that his main purpose in writing a book is not to tell a story but to show off how convoluted he can get with his writing. Where Rowling wants to tell her brilliant story in the simplest terms (which is still brilliant by-the-way), Rushdie seems to be almost hiding behind his words. Both are good, but in very different ways. Its the difference between 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and 'Closer'. Poles apart and excellent in very different ways

Rushdie is pretentious. His writing screams - "Look at me! I'm a brilliant writer, look how convoluted I can get with my prose". In my opinion, the first objective of any good writer should be to tell a good story. King and Rowling write with this objective. Rushdie seems more preoccupied with showing off his writing skills than the telling of his story. He's too aware of his writing genius and so ends up sounding highly conceited.

In the end, the honest, simple writing of King and Rowling is as good, if not better than the conceited, convoluted writing of Rushdie and Roy.

The literary elite seems hell-bent on proving that anything simple is not good. Its about time they know that there are other intelligent people out there who understand writing and who are not buying into this notion!

1 comment:

Shadow said...

can't say i'm a huge fan for the 'pretentious literary elite'. i don't always like trying to figure out what someone is trying to say. there's an easy way, then there's a hard way. i'm an easy way kinda person myself. therefore, if choice presents itself, i think you know which one i'll opt for... interesting read.