Of sense and imagery

Not much time for blogging as have been putting wordcount into my novel. Words by the sackload of them. Or something approaching that.

In between times I was re-reading Wild Fang (Jack London)* who I think is underrated as a writer. He has a real gift for sentences. If paragraphs are the unit of a piece, well I think that it’s the sentences that provide momentum. London’s sentences do just that, they’re like the paddles of a steamboat, impressive enough visually and with a strong rhythm that drives the pace. Not that he never writes a bad one though.

There’s something else I like about the writing. His imagery is always consistent with the world he’s writing about. Choosing one sentence at random:

“It was a wistfulness bred of hunger, as cruel as its own fangs, as merciless as the frost itself”

He pins the wolf into it’s very self and the landscape, the imagery drawn from and constructing both into coherence.

I read some writers – often ones rated as fine – and their imagery seems plucked from wherever. To me, this jars. The words in good writing should be like pushpins through fabric layers, working at each level of their meaning to put the piece together. For writers who are trying to point up the inconsistencies in their world or get away from essentialist principles, this might not be appropriate. The effect though, is often sloppy.

The trouble I think with London is not the quality of what he writes, just that what he says is currently out of fashion. Which thought leads me to another post, which time demands wait for now.

*Hat tip Project Gutenberg by means of Manybooks. Thank you for the free text and I promise to make a donation – I know, I’ve downloaded a lot of books from you.

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