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Echoes and Mirrors» Blog Archive » What You Can Get Away With

What You Can Get Away With

From The Illuminatus! Trilogy, The Eye in the Pyramid:

The sculptures were unlike the work of any culture George knew, which was to be expected, after all. They were at once realistic, fanciful and abstractly intellectual. They bore resemblance to Egyptian and Mayan, Classical Greek, Chinese and Gothic, combined with a surprisingly modern-looking note. There were some qualities in the statues that were totally unique, though, qualities doubtless lost by the civilizations to which Atlantis was ancestral, but that might have been found in known world art, had there been other civilizations to preserve and emphasize them. This, George realized was the Ur-Art; and looking at the statues was like hearing a sentence in the first language spoken by men.

(257)

It took a few more pages before it dawned on me that the only really good line in the passage. The rest of it is vague in the extreme. This is a prime example of telling instead of showing. But that last sentence is almost poetic enough to make you ignore that.

This is less a critique of the book than it is a lesson in What You Can Get Away With If Your Novel is Strong Elsewhereâ„¢. Sleight of hand, as it were. The strong point of this book is certainly not in it’s descriptions or language, but in the plot and ideas. Nothing wrong with that.

The Goldfinch was quite the opposite; I found it to be a really poetic, language-rich work that sort of suffered from a weak plot that just meandered and wrapped itself up. Again, nothing wrong with that.

Writing really is about what you can get away with.

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