Nothing prepared me for the contrast in writing styles I just received.
Was doing the hipster thing recently – there is a local anthology of books I’ve been interested in reading and they had an open-mike event from some of their authors recently. I’m rather downtown (looks so cool to write that) so my wife and I walked a couple of blocks over to the deal – had sushi at a local restaurant, checked out the hairstylist and considered going there in future (I did – great cut) and then wandered over to the CD shop. They have a good collection of books there – I got the most recent BikeSnob work on commuting (review next Sunday).
Finally the writers got up to speak. Four pretty good readings, all very compact, all very funny. A lot of observations of Orlando, its heat, its trendiness, its backwards conservatism and mindless tourism. All sorts of one-word zings, all carefully considered and deployed, the writers true effort to capture essence with minimalism.
Later, while buying the two books, I mentioned to the editor that I was also a local writer and might be interested in contributing – just asked for details. And he gave me a look, scanning my white nine-to-five button-up shirt, my sweet little wife, my fifty-four years, and tossed off a cool response as to how it would be done… (grandpa).
I became distinctly aware that I was the only writer in the room over thirty, probably with a good job, who wasn’t sporting a half-shave and wearing an ironically-obtuse t-shirt.
In reading the stories (hey, I liked them and will review them shortly), I realized what he was thinking. He’s part of the writers’ community in Orlando (which I was, twenty years ago). This involves weekly meetings downtown, writing exercises and ninja-dedication. You can see it in the stories (as mentioned, the tales drip with craft). I don’t know if I’ll bother following up – I’ll just keep pushing my own version of literature, my crow book that sees Orlando top down. And yes, I practice my own word-use craft, as I was taught.
Was still thinking this over last night when I started a new book, one that involves an asteroid hitting the Earth (I think from the timing and such that it’s going to be a The Road knockoff). In reading this general release paperback, there has not been a single scene-setting word, not a lick of mood or foreshadowing. Characters are not unique in look and dialog – they just snap open their prepared scripts and read.
The contrast caught me, since one is national (in bookstores) while the other was local (in CD shops and bars).
That’s all. We all know that writing comes to us in different forms, olde worlde classical, modern deconstructed Nihilism, pot-boiling thriller pulp, all that. And one version isn’t any better than the other. Artistic worth, market worth. Merit vs. Market.
No easy answer. Not even sure of the question. Just noting it here.