Genre prejudice

Charles Butler hannibal at
Wed Jul 16 09:43:51 EDT 2003

One of my
> pet peeves is bitty books, stream-of-consciousness with unsignalled
> to *which character's* consciousness it is- or maybe it's the narrator-
> (just tell the damn story, FFS!) but there are one or two like that which
> liked anyway, for the prose style.

This reminds me of my experience of Virginia Woolf. Mostly, when I read one
of her books I spend the first chapter or two enjoying it greatly. What
superb style! What wonderful imagery! What insight into people's thought
processes, memories, motivations, etc.! I could read it for ever...

...about six chapters in, I begin to feel as if I already have. Clearly the
physical size of the book imposes a necessary limit, but there's a certain
sameness of intensity, of pace, of emphasis, and of event, which begins to
make it feel tedious and somehow interminable. And I find this about a lot
of literary fiction - though I wouldn't go so far as to call it a defining
characteristic (there are 'literary' writers I enjoy, too). But, to take
three quite differerent literary books, it's also what I particularly
disliked in: The Rainbow, Herzog and On the Road. I say: "Yechh to them

(Your comment about streams of consciousness and changing the POV was what
set me on to think about Woolf, though I feel a little uncomfortable here as
the book I have just finished writing uses quite a lot of POV-switches too.
But I promise you they are INTEGRAL TO THE PLOT and not just a stylistic


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