Apr 13, 2012

A to Z - Language

Sometimes, when we are reading a book, we focus on the plot twists and the characters.  But increasingly, I find I'm adding the language to this list of what makes me love a book.

I recently had a discussion with a relative about why the conversations around books, for decades, has decreasingly been about language.  Think about it, the description, the emotion created in the classics are what have made them classics, not the story or the characters as much. 

Why do you think that is? 

I sometimes wonder if it is because of the society we are in.  I don't know how many people (teens) I have talked to who quit reading The Hunger Games because the first part was boring, which, incidentally, is the same criticism I hear most about the movie.  Are we so eager to jump into the plot immediately that we no longer allow for beautiful language?

I love John Milton - have for years.  I started to re-read Paradise Lost a few days ago and was again blown away at the absolute beauty of his language.


What was the last book that amazed you with it's language? How have you found ways to work beautiful language into your writing? Classic or modern, what is the work that just takes your breath away with its language?

15 comments :

Lynn Proctor said...

i remember loving paradise lost also--yes the beauty of someone's style gets me every time!

Jessica Bell said...

We have become a POP culture, unfortunately :-/ I think it's very sad. You might be interested in my post on Writer's Digest entitled "Why Literary Fiction Isn't Boring" I think you'd appreciate it! If you want to read it, just Google the title and it'll pop up :o)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm not a fan of the classics, but I have enjoyed reading some of the Sherlock Holmes books.

Alice said...

I'll sometimes read a book purely because of the beautiful language even if I'm not that crazy about the plot of characters. Two books I've read and love with beautiful language are Shannon Hale's Goose Girl and Ally Condie's Matched.

elizabeth seckman said...

Huge Steinbeck fan. And I love him because he combines language with plot. There's nothing wasted in his words. I'm not scanning whole chunks of unnecessary, albeit beautiful prose, in order to get to the meat. The wonderful words are the main course too.
Language just for beauty...I skip it. I shouldn't, but I do. Still wading through Atlas Shrugged...wonderfully written, but I'm skimming over whole pages not at all relishing the perfect prose.

Bish Denham said...

I love the one section...
With thee conversing I forget all time,
All seasons and their change, all please alike.

It is, for me, one of the most beautiful love poems ever.

Susan Roebuck said...

i adore Charles Dickens - any of them. I think it's the settings (I'm fascinated by life in Victorian London) and the quirky characters that have layers of personality. I suppose in today's society, people don't have enough time to reflect and chew stuff over. They want action and they want it now. Sad, really.

Cassie Mae said...

There have been books I've read where virtually nothing happens, but it's one of my favorite reads because of the words used. Nick and Nora's comes to mind.

Cortney Pearson said...

I do love the classics! And you have a good point. I think the instant technology at our fingertips may also be another reason readers may skip out on the beautiful language. Maybe because they're not patient enough anymore to let a story develop, they just want everything to snap crack pop happen? Shorter attention spans and that kind of thing. It's interesting, because I think my favorite part of the Hunger Games book 1 is the build-up to the actual arena! I can't think of anything I've read lately that has been really beautiful, language-wise, which is kind of sad! I think Daughter of Smoke and Bone, while I didn't like a lot of the plot, had some really great descriptions and great writing.

Clarissa Draper said...

One of my favourite authors is Virginia Woolf and on of the reason I love her writing is the prose, the words, the way she writes. Why can't we have more of that anymore?

Simon Kewin said...

Yes, Woolf springs to mind. Such beautiful words and sentences.

Jo said...

Oh, The Elegance of the Hedgehog!!! I looooove the prose in that... The first time I read it, I just sat there and read so slowly, letting the words tumble over each other in my head. LOVED it.

Jo
In Which We Start Anew

Andrew Leon said...

You should try Mary Doria Russell.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Two of my favorite mystery authors, Charles Todd and Elizabeth George really pull me in with their language and the depth of emotion they show in their main characters.

Nicole said...

I think there's a balance between beautiful language and great plot. You nailed it when you said the dialogue should build emotion - that's what pulls us into a story.