25 February 2010

On "a technical matter appreciated by specialists"

Laura Miller in Salon responds to a much circulated list of writing tips from famous authors in the Guardian with her own five rules. I know she speaks for a reader (herself), not all, but there's this:
4. Remember that nobody agrees on what a beautiful prose style is and most readers either can't recognize "good writing" or don't value it that much.
I don't know if this is untrue so much as that I want to believe that readers, to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart, know good writing when they see it. Even if we can't all agree, there must be a baseline somewhere. Or have I lost all perspective? What do you say?

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

I agree with the first part of the sentence: nobody agrees on what a beautiful prose style is. Aesthetics are entirely subjective.

I can recognize differences between J.K. Rowling's prose and Ernest Hemingway's, and I can point to particular techniques they're using that make up their style, but whether I think either style is "beautiful" or not is entirely a matter of opinion. So I guess that puts me in the latter camp: if I don't think something's "beautiful", Miller would probably say that I "don't value it".