Earlier this week, Michael Krasny, host of Forum on KQED, a San Francisco NPR station, was interviewing British author David Mitchell, who according to the introduction, is being "compared to Tolstoy, Joyce and Nabokov," to name a few literary bigwigs.
Mitchell was promoting his new book, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. The reason the interview intrigued me is because of how Mr. Krasny described Mr. Mitchell's writing, which is to say, like that of John Updike:
...dazzling pyrotehnic language, sometimes it almost seems like an acrobatic feat in itself...
There's Writing, Then There's Writing
Sometimes what we mean when we say we love a book is that we love the story: the people and what happens to them. When we say we love the writing, however, we usually mean we love the way the author put together the words, ultimately creating a ongoing song with a definite rhythm.
For example, I love such classics as To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye, but I can't really remember specifics about the writing style, other than that the book written by Harper Lee had a meandering feel to match the southern drawl of the region in which the story takes place. While J. D. Salinger's writing seems to reflect a kid who wants to stop the constant rush of his troubling thoughts, but can't.
Yet if someone were to ask me what writing I've loved, I think of writing so strong only a few books pop to mind like favorite songs, the melody of them that distinctive and beautiful. Even if I don't love the story, I still love the writing.
Here are a few:
The Stones of Summer by Dow Mossman:
When August came, thick as a dream of falling timbers, Dawes Williams and his mother would pick Simpson up at his office, and then they would all drive west, all evening, the sun before them dying like the insides of a stone melon, split and watery, halving with blood. August was always an endless day, he felt, white as wood, slow as light. Dawes shifted about in his seat, uncomfortable, watching the land slide past. It was late, a steady progression of night; the conversations inside the car were like great wood eyes and, driving west over Iowa, the evening was always air vague with towns, blue fences, and crossroads vacant of cars. He watched the deserted country porches slide by like lonely pickets guarding the gray, outbreaking storm of sky; like juts of rock.
Underworld by Don DeLillo (though the story falls apart, I read to page 500 so on the writing alone):
We were about thirty miles below the Canadian border in a rambling encampment that was mostly barracks and other frame structures, a harking back, maybe, to the missionary roots of the order -- except the natives, in this case, were us. Poor city kids who showed promise; some frail-bodied types with photographic memories and a certain uncleanness about them; those who were bright but unstable; those who could not adjust; the ones whose adjustment was ordained by the state; a cluster of Latins from some Jesuit center in Venezuela, smart young men with a cosmopolitan style, freezing their weenies off; and a few farmboys from not so far away, shyer than borrowed suits.
What writing has so impressed you that much?