Gut Rumbles

January 11, 2005

quote of the day

"If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing that's read by persons who move their lips when they're reading to themselves."---Don Marquis

Too many writers attempt to be artists instead of entertainers. I believe that you can be both at the same time, but if I had a choice, I'd pick entertainer. Reading should not be WORK.

I have a shameful confession to make: I started Moby Dick three times in my life and I never finished reading the book. I bogged down in that turgid rhetoric and sunk to my neck in literary quicksand about halfway through. I couldn't fight my way out of there. I just had to throw the book down and forget about it.

I was reading the book one night when I realized that my eyes were scanning the page, but I wasn't paying any attention whatsoever to what was written there. I was in total drone-mode. I wondered why, and I checked. I was in the middle of a run-on sentence that lasted for TWO PAGES in the book.

I don't know what Herman Melville was smoking when he wrote that sentence, but I wish I had some tonight. Maybe if I smoked it, I could understand his book.

Reading should be a treat, like a rich dessert after supper. But if it gives you an ice-cream headache, it's no good at all. A Hershey's Kiss is better.

That's MY humble opinion.


Who are you trying to kid? you never had a humble opinion in your life.

That's why we keep coming back.

Posted by: og on January 11, 2005 06:36 PM

.. I agree without reservation.... totally...

... to read is to enjoy... to live.. it is easy to tell when someone is writing for themselves rather than an audience.. I prefer one who writes for me... the audience....

Posted by: Eric on January 11, 2005 06:37 PM

But Rob, just think, had you read Moby Dick you might have started a coffee company and been fabulously wealthy. It seems that I remember the earliest incarnation of the Starbucks logo had a bare breasted woman depicted. Hmmm, maybe you were in on the startup...

Posted by: Circa Bellum on January 11, 2005 06:54 PM

Oh, bull, Rob. All reading is work. The stuff you find easy would knit most brows into long johns. You just reached to a level you're comfortable with and quit.

The straightforward style is not the only one with literary value. You already know that Budweiser has its place, and Old Nick's Barleywine, too.

Melville becomes easy with practice. If you''ve neglected Faulkner for similar reasons, well, you''ve got a Southern treat ahead of you.

My opinion is definitely understream, however; I think FINNEGANS WAKE is a great lark.

Posted by: Brett on January 11, 2005 07:30 PM

I think that's a valid statement to make about a lot of literature written during that period. I find Charles Dickens to be a crashing bore. Hell, I couldn't even get through the Cliff's Notes of "Great Expectations." I had to read "Crime & Punishment" for a college lit course and I got about half-way through before saying "Fuck this shit." But Robert Ludlum's novels got gobbled up in no time.

Posted by: Ralph Gizzip on January 11, 2005 07:53 PM

Brett, I respectfully disagree. Some writing is fun to read. Some stuff is just written so it's a PAIN to read. Maybe different people find different levels entertaining, but a novel shouldn't have sentences that are like algebra problems.

I don't want to have to figure out what the sentence means. I want to spend my brain power speculating about plot twists instead. Sure, sometimes sentences have to be read more than once, but sometimes it gets ridiculous.

My problem doesn't lie with older literature, though I don't read it often, but some current writers. I mostly stick to the fantasy genre, and there's one author who I won't name because I don't want to start a flamewar if any of his nutball fans* happen to frequent the site. But he's so obviously full of himself and is a wordy son of a bitch. I get no more than twenty pages into his books and then blood pours from my eyes. Okay, not really. But he's a wordy bastard and could spend an entire damned chapter describing a tree.

*Not that they're all nutballs, but the nutball fans drive me crazy. They're like DUers. This applies to any nutball fans of anything.

Posted by: Adam Lawson on January 11, 2005 08:40 PM

A-Man, dude:

More people enjoy reading what you write
than will EVER suffer through Melville or
Dostoyevski (I had to read Crime and
Punishment in high school) or Tolstoy or
any of those "high lit" authors.

Keep it up. You have style.

Posted by: BJK on January 11, 2005 09:59 PM

I ran across the same thing. I've read everything ever put in front of me, but Tolkien became the bane of my existance. My ONE guilty pleasure is fantasy lit and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get into THE fantasy masterpiece...until the first Lord of the Rings movie came out. After I had a mental reference point for all of the characters, getting into the books was easy.

Posted by: Chablis on January 11, 2005 10:37 PM

Heinlein always claimed he was competing for beer money. He made a pretty good living.

Posted by: Justthisguy on January 12, 2005 12:45 AM

I also tried to read Moby Dick, and, after wading through the "just how white was the whale" chapter, I finally cratered.

I also recall someone once telling me they understood "Finnegan's Wake." Heh.

Posted by: Jim - PRS on January 12, 2005 05:21 AM

Militant middlebrows tickle me. They are bored by complicated styles, so they insist such are bad art. How would they know, if they refuse to read those works?. I can understand people saying they are not to their taste, but to insist that no art is good beyond what suits one's taste is incredibly proud. I hate opera: the genre includes much great music.

Note I am not saying the ornate writers are better writers. It all depends on the individual work. The majority of writers are bad or mediocre, no matter the style.

Posted by: Brett on January 12, 2005 09:24 AM

WTF was THAT, Brett? I am a "militant middlebrow?" I guess so, because I never liked Henry James, either. You can have your "ornate" writers.

Give me somebody who can tell a story.

Posted by: Acidman on January 12, 2005 11:38 AM

I have no use for Lit. Fic., that pretentious boring convoluted "artsy" crap.

But Melville is NOT in that category. The man was a genius. Moby Dick is a hilarious, moving, thought provoking, gut-wrenching, rip-roaring blast of whale-stabbing insanity. I LOVE that book, and I really enjoy Melville's prose style. Difficult, my ass. It's just different.

I guess I got lucky. I didn't have to read it in college.

Posted by: dipnut on January 12, 2005 11:49 AM

Another thing about Melville that's worth keeping in mind: he wrote Moby Dick in an attic when he was about 27 years old, using a goddamn goose quill.

You think his sentences are too long? Imagine how HE must have felt.

Posted by: dipnut on January 12, 2005 11:52 AM

Brett, reading, IMAO, is most definitely NOT work! Reading is what I have done, not just to avoid work, but to avoid schoolteachers, avoid bullies, avoid parents, (well-meaning, but, well..) avoid boredom et fucking cetera since I was an itty bitty kid!

And don't give us any shit about so-called "escape" literature!

I think C.S. Lewis had the last word on that subject; I believe he asked a rhetorical question along the lines of

"What kind of people are opposed to escaping?"

He answered it, too:


Posted by: Justthisguy on January 13, 2005 01:43 AM

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