"Beautiful" Prose

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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby Grayson Morris » Thu Jan 26, 2012 12:45 pm

Aaron, you're right, LeGuin's writing is lovely. I just don't think "beautiful prose" when I think of her, because her writing so captivates me and pulls me into her stories.

Annie mentioned Robin McKinley, another huge favorite of mine, and again, another writer I've never thought of as writing "beautiful prose." I think of her as someone who writes stories I love to read.

I think I only think "beautiful prose" when that's what's getting most of my attention--and that makes it a bad thing. So a writer who becomes a favorite of mine is by definition not writing what I think of as "beautiful prose." I think my definition may need a little examination.
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby Juliana » Thu Jan 26, 2012 12:49 pm

I love Robin McKinley. But, also, her writing style makes me crazy in the head. Not in a good way. That is all.

(p.s. E.Caiman: you totally made me laugh with your gator reference... Which would be good, except I'm sick and it started me coughing, which led to a serious lack of oxygen to the brain. But thanks for the laugh anywho!)

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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby Strycher » Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:18 pm

gower21 wrote:One past forum member that sticks out in my mind is Gwen Clair--her story I think that was either in Clarksworld or Daily about the artist using her/his (can't remember) own blood to paint pictures with more emotion...it was incredibly beautifully written and a great story too.


Strycher wrote:"Iron Oxide Red" was in Daily Science Fiction. I loved that story. Maybe I should read it again. I don't remember thinking the prose was beautiful, but the story certainly was.


Speak of the devil:

Gwen Clare on her most recent blog post wrote: I still think about "Iron Oxide Red" sometimes. It's a weird, gross, hallucinogenic nightmare of a story -- I reached down inside myself and pulled out this horrible little honesty and tried to turn it into something other people could read. I'm not sure it's a particularly good piece of writing, objectively speaking, and I was fairly confident it would never find a home in print. I was sure it was something only I could ever like. But DSF bought it, and for at least a few people, it resonated.


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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby izanobu » Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:21 pm

If you want to read someone newer who writes awesome prose, my fellow Clarionaut Brooke Bolander pretty much blows the socks off her prose. She's fresh out of Clarion and has already sold stories to Strange Horizons and Lightspeed/Fantasy. You can read one of her Clarion stories here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/suppo ... -issue-21/

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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby gower21 » Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:00 pm

Strycher wrote:
gower21 wrote:One past forum member that sticks out in my mind is Gwen Clair--her story I think that was either in Clarksworld or Daily about the artist using her/his (can't remember) own blood to paint pictures with more emotion...it was incredibly beautifully written and a great story too.


Strycher wrote:"Iron Oxide Red" was in Daily Science Fiction. I loved that story. Maybe I should read it again. I don't remember thinking the prose was beautiful, but the story certainly was.


Speak of the devil:

Gwen Clare on her most recent blog post wrote: I still think about "Iron Oxide Red" sometimes. It's a weird, gross, hallucinogenic nightmare of a story -- I reached down inside myself and pulled out this horrible little honesty and tried to turn it into something other people could read. I'm not sure it's a particularly good piece of writing, objectively speaking, and I was fairly confident it would never find a home in print. I was sure it was something only I could ever like. But DSF bought it, and for at least a few people, it resonated.


/Thread Hijack


Nice! Iron Oxide Red...that's the name of it. Yeah, I agree she has written things that are more "beautiful" but the words went together well with a flow, even though the subject was not beautiful (or maybe I'm remembering it wrong confusing her other writing with this story). I like things that dig a little deeper emotionally, but with Iron Oxide Red it wasn't trying hard like so many emotional stories do.

izanobu wrote:If you want to read someone newer who writes awesome prose, my fellow Clarionaut Brooke Bolander pretty much blows the socks off her prose. She's fresh out of Clarion and has already sold stories to Strange Horizons and Lightspeed/Fantasy. You can read one of her Clarion stories here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/suppo ... -issue-21/


Checking it out now. Thanks for all the samples in the topic! Having fun reading though them.

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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby george nik. » Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:37 pm

What exactly IS beautiful prose?

For me, the best kind of story is the one that makes you so immersed in it that you forget you're reading a story and you feel like you're actually there. So I suppose that's beautiful prose for me. Bad prose is something that puts me off so much that I can't possibly read it.

Maybe the best writer of all, for my taste at least, is Tanith Lee. I also love Ursula K. LeGuin, Robert Jordan, Julian May, Orson Scott Card, Brian Aldiss. Philip Jose Farmer wrote beautifully. Roger Zelazny and Michael Moorcock also, though I'm not sure about the beauty of their prose.
Oh, Gene Wolfe also. Very hard to read, but astounding prose--and immense depth of meaning, also.

There are only two books I recall that I didn't manage to finish (I usually browse books before I read them, so most books I don't like I don't even start). The one was The DaVinci Code, which I was heavily prejudiced against anyway and I put down after less than 10 pages. The other, the Redemption of Althalus. I really tried to finish it beacuse I was curious about how it would turn out, but it really felt like torture.
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby Strycher » Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:09 pm

gower21 wrote:
izanobu wrote:If you want to read someone newer who writes awesome prose, my fellow Clarionaut Brooke Bolander pretty much blows the socks off her prose. She's fresh out of Clarion and has already sold stories to Strange Horizons and Lightspeed/Fantasy. You can read one of her Clarion stories here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/suppo ... -issue-21/


Checking it out now. Thanks for all the samples in the topic! Having fun reading though them.


Me too!

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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby Grayson Morris » Fri Jan 27, 2012 12:50 am

george nik. wrote:For me, the best kind of story is the one that makes you so immersed in it that you forget you're reading a story and you feel like you're actually there. So I suppose that's beautiful prose for me.

How interesting...I agree completely with your first sentence. Rather than define writing that does that as beautiful prose, however, I've (apparently; I never thought about it before this thread) defined beautiful prose as something lovely that pulls me out of the story long enough to notice it. Bad prose, of course, is the same, but it pulls me out long enough to groan. Prose that gets out of my readerly way and lets me sink into the story is just....prose. Heh.

I think I'll adopt your definition, George. In which case Octavia Butler, Orson Scott Card, and Ursula LeGuin absolutely write* some of the most beautiful prose in the galaxy.

* sadly, wrote, in Butler's case.
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby E.CaimanSands » Fri Jan 27, 2012 5:17 am

Juliana wrote:I love Robin McKinley. But, also, her writing style makes me crazy in the head. Not in a good way. That is all.

(p.s. E.Caiman: you totally made me laugh with your gator reference... Which would be good, except I'm sick and it started me coughing, which led to a serious lack of oxygen to the brain. But thanks for the laugh anywho!)


Ah well, in that case you should avoid my posts for a bit as most of them are like that. I've been a gator for four or five years now, and still I haven't emptied the bottom of the swamp when it comes to bad gator jokes.
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby Juliana » Fri Jan 27, 2012 6:53 pm

E.CaimanSands wrote:Ah well, in that case you should avoid my posts for a bit as most of them are like that. I've been a gator for four or five years now, and still I haven't emptied the bottom of the swamp when it comes to bad gator jokes.

I know! I don't know why, but that one just pushed me over the edge. It may be the fever. :)

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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby E.CaimanSands » Sat Jan 28, 2012 5:07 am

Juliana wrote:
E.CaimanSands wrote:Ah well, in that case you should avoid my posts for a bit as most of them are like that. I've been a gator for four or five years now, and still I haven't emptied the bottom of the swamp when it comes to bad gator jokes.

I know! I don't know why, but that one just pushed me over the edge. It may be the fever. :)


I think it must have been. wotf001 Hope you're better soon.
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby gethinmorgan » Sat Jan 28, 2012 8:53 am

Beautiful sneaks up on you, and inspires. IMO Clive Barker's opus Imajica does it every time, and so far, almost everything that China Mieville has written.

I realise I'm opening an (old) can of worms here, but it's the 'truth' in the beauty that makes it shine/stick out. wotf007
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby AdamP » Sat Jan 28, 2012 1:20 pm

For my money, some of the most beautiful writing I've read comes from Pat Conroy. His descriptions of various aspects of life and geography in South Carolina are so heartfelt they leap off the page. Especially so in The Prince of Tides. A typical passage toward the beginning:

To describe our growing up in the low country of South Carolina, I would have to take you to the marsh on a spring day, flush the great blue heron from its silent occupation, scatter marsh hens as we sink to our knees in the mud, open you an oyster with a pocketknife and feed it to you from the shell and say, "There. That taste. That's the taste of my childhood." I would say "Breath deeply," and you would breathe and remember the smell for the rest of your life, the bold, fecund aroma of the tidal marsh, exquisite and sensual, the smell of the South in heat, a smell like new milk, semen, and spilled wine, all perfumed with seawater. My soul grazes like a lamb on the beauty of indrawn tides.
I am a patriot of a single geography on the planet; I speak of my country religiously; I am proud of it's landscape. I walk through the traffic of cities cautiously, always nimble and on alert, because my heart belongs in the marshlands.


I always loved that passage.
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby RPL Johnson » Fri Mar 02, 2012 3:22 am

OK... I'm going off topic a bit as this is poety, but it's open form so it's almost prose.

From Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.


Always loved that stanza. Beautiful prose has a kind of music to it. Had to define, but you know it when you read it.
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby Strycher » Fri Mar 02, 2012 8:21 am

Thanks RPL!

See I'm trying to wrap my head around this idea. I've noticed a trend where prose that is considered beautiful in itself is kind of like chiaroscuro. The words dance around the meaning is a descriptive way, like how with art utilizing chiaroscuro present a pictures without harsh, defined lines. Whereas more casual prose is more like a line drawing.

"The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world."

As apposed to "I was a person of faith, but now I've lost my way."

But I'm not certain that analogy holds up and I'm pretty sure I still won't be able to point out beautiful prose if I see it. (See how I haven't noticed any examples to post since I started the topic?) wotf005

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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby Patrick S. McGinnity » Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:37 am

I agree with the my Welsh friend, Gethin (correct spelling?) about Mieville. I'd also add Jeff Vandermeer, especially from City of Saints and Madmen; there are stories in there I can read over and over, and immersing myself in both the world and the baroque prose that presents it is like settling into a hot tub--you're submerged and it feels great. Also, Susanna Clarke's Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

I think what counts a beautiful prose depends very much on the reader. If you really dig terse, gritty stories, the prose of a noir detective writer could be as beautiful to you as the above are to me (in fact, when the mood strikes me, I can see its beauty too). Think of the difference between a decaying warehouse and an untouched old-growth forest--two totally different settings, but given the right aesthetic, both are beautiful. I tend to favor the latter, but there is also something really compelling about the former. I am less familiar with the urban, but when a talented wordsmith paints it for me in prose that draws me in, I can see and feel its beauty, too.

The ideal to me is a great story beautifully told. A compelling story told artlessly might get me to finish it and think "Damn, what a good story," but if the prose through which it is told offers rewards of its own, then I'll probably keep coming back to the story again and again. The difference between a story that impresses me but is soon forgotten and one that becomes a part of my life is all in the telling.
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby Patrick S. McGinnity » Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:56 am

From "Dradin in Love":

"Morning glories, four o'clocks, and yet more ivy choked moldering stone street markers, trailed from rusted balconies, sprouted from pavement cracks, and stitched themselves into fences or gates scoured with old fire burns. Whom such buildings had housed, or what business had been conducted within, Dradin could only guess. They had, in their height and solidity, an atmosphere of states-craft about them, bureaucratic in their flourishes and busts, gargoyles and stout columns. But a bureaucracy lost to time: sword-wielding statues on horseback overgrown with lichen, the features of faces eaten away by rot deep in the stone; a fountain split down the center by the muscular roots of an oak. There was such a staggering sense of lawlessness in the silence amid the creepers."

To augment what I said previously, when beautiful prose is at its best, it is so integrally tied to the story that it is almost hard to identify examples that are just beautiful. In looking back through Dradin, I found lots of favorite lines, but they all have utility too. When beautiful prose draws attention to itself instead of serving the story, then it becomes something else entirely. And when you get to what can be seen in some contemporary "literary" fiction, you end up with prose that is just there to be beautiful, and the story (if it is really there at all) is neglected and stunted by the lack of attention.
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby morshana » Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:21 am

Well said, Patrick.
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby Strycher » Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:24 am

Patrick S. McGinnity wrote:When beautiful prose draws attention to itself instead of serving the story, then it becomes something else entirely. And when you get to what can be seen in some contemporary "literary" fiction, you end up with prose that is just there to be beautiful, and the story (if it is really there at all) is neglected and stunted by the lack of attention.


I tend to agree with you there. At least one novel in the last year I didn't finish reading because the prose was so over-embellished I couldn't discern the meaning in the story any more. Prose at the expense of plot, if you will.

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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby lsjohnson » Sun Jul 22, 2012 7:57 am

i know this thread is quiet now, but . . .

in peter greenaway's the pillow book, one of the calligraphers says:

"the word for smoke should look like smoke; the word for rain should look like rain."

he is talking about chinese characters, but i always think of it in relation to writing. the plot is the drawing; the prose is the coloring, the nuance, the shading. how you write it, for me (and i know i am in the uberminority here), is as important as what you write. i can read a well-written book with an ehh plot and finish it, but i can't read a poorly written book, because then i can't see the plot for the bad mechanics obscuring it. a reminder of the necessity of good editors, yet fewer and fewer publishers are willing to pay for them.

the pace of the language can do as much to build suspense as the words themselves; a sonorous, or a jangling, description shapes my apprehension of a location as much as the actual adjectives being used. you can use a formal style to underscore, say, a repressive regime and its effects on people; you can use a poetic meter to carry readers through a particularly painful scene and leave them with a sense of perseverance, even hope, without actually saying it.

the last readings which i found interesting for style were catherynne valente's silently and very fast and the hilary mantel duo, wolf hall and bring up the bodies. the valente is gorgeous and sweeping and takes the time to balance character, image, and plot all through the prose. i'm overdue to revisit it, but it felt at once poetic and muscular . . . and it told a story in upwards of, oh, 15,000 words? that other folks would have told in 5,000. and thank goodness she does. on the other end of the spectrum, the mantels funnel an enormous amount of english history into a compressed voice that just barely keeps her vast chessboard in play. it's a tremendous balancing act, and it falters in a few spots, but it goes like stink . . . and considering how far we are from the tudor era, it's got something to offer for sheer worldbuilding, even if you're not into the so-called "litfic"-ness of it.
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby liz » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:43 pm

Bradles wrote:I'm just reading an advance copy of Elizabeth Bear's forthcoming novel Range of Ghosts, and the writing is wonderful.


Oooh, lucky!

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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby Kary English » Sat Dec 15, 2012 9:58 am

Careful, Liz! The reek of spam coming off Bradles is sure to draw the Gator. I'd keep my distance.

Range of Ghosts has been out since March, so it's odd that he'd be reading an ARC. On the upside, there's no need to wait if you're interested in reading it. :)
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby E.CaimanSands » Sat Dec 15, 2012 10:53 am

Oooo look spammy sig. Can I? Can I? wotf007 wotf007 wotf007

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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby Kary English » Sat Dec 15, 2012 11:24 am

Be our guest, Madame Gator. I'll even provide the fish sauce.

*pulls out Gator's chair and proffers a napkin for her lap*
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby E.CaimanSands » Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:18 pm

wotf053

*Munch munch munch munch*

Buuuuurp.

wotf007


You really shouldn't encourage her, Kary. wotf005

That was tasty. Can I have my own animated Pacman chomping smiley too?

I think you've had more than enough for one day, dear.

Aw. wotf014
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby liz » Sat Dec 15, 2012 3:02 pm

Aish, tell the gator thanks, Elinor! Silly spammers...

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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby E.CaimanSands » Sat Dec 15, 2012 4:05 pm

I will, Liz, though I think she's had too much protein now today, she won't stop checking Duotrope. wotf017
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby Kary English » Sun Dec 16, 2012 10:16 am

Um, eeeek!

Image

Did someone say SPAM?
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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby austinDm » Sun Dec 16, 2012 10:48 am

wotf018 Not I...

...said everyone

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Re: "Beautiful" Prose

Postby E.CaimanSands » Sun Dec 16, 2012 1:16 pm

austinDm wrote:wotf018 Not I...

...said everyone


Lol, agreed.

Oops, even Gator is hiding under the couch.

It's ok Gator dear, it's only a photo.

Has it gone yet? wotf015
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