Gnomicon 054

If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  054
Friday 27 April 2012

Read gnomica 1-50 here!
051     052     053

Easy reading is damn hard writing.
Nathaniel Hawthorne (4 Jul 1804 – 19 May 1864)

As a reader I find the proposition reasonable; as a writer I deem it verifiable.  And certainly Mr. Seven Gables with his lush prose should know!

By the same token I would not aver that Hawthorne is the easiest writer to read, for while his short stories fascinate, the ornate English he deploys may not be to everyone’s taste … de gustibus and all that!  Still and all, he is no more difficult to read than other giants of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and thereby validates for me the truth of his observation.  Think of Joseph Conrad and – yes – Edgar Rice Burroughs (whose style Gore Vidal once in fact likened to Conrad’s [“The beginning is worthy of Conrad.” Esquire) … and then compare them to the verbal way Hemingway went about things scriptorial – he too, yes, easy to read, but for demonstrably different reasons.

Elsewhere I have addressed this issue of writing as a kind of meta-concern of (in my view) anyone who confects coherent thoughts in sentences constructed from words – for all ends:  expository, epistolary, epistemological … whatever!  Just check me out here and here!

Well, the Hawthorne quote kind of caught my attention a while back, and I thought about now was an appropriate moment to riff.

This entry was posted in GNOMICA, LANGUAGE, LITERATURE and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Gnomicon 054

  1. Chuck says:

    I didn’t know that Hawthorne made this comment but when I was still teaching I used to tell my
    students that all the time: if it reads easily, it was the result of much effort on the part of the writer.

    I remember in graduate school trying to comprehend some of the professional journals. I would often use passages from them as bad examples of what I was trying to teach in the classroom: focus, unity, and coherence in the paragraph and the complete essay.

    Hawthorne, by the way, always put me to sleep, even when I was in high school struggling with House of Seven Gables, I can remember nodding off after only a few pages.

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