The other thing I’ve realised about Terry Pratchett from writing these posts, and from starting to reread his books, is that he’s a really excellent writer. It’s easy to overlook good writing, or to take it for granted, because like many other things, when it’s really working, it may not be that visible. We can recognise the sort of writing that you get in Booker prize winning novels as good, partly because we’re told so and partly because it’s obvious. Hilary Mantel’s writing, for instance, has the weight and sheen of good silver. It’s not showy, but you know it’s top quality stuff just from the way it feels as you read it.
Other good writing is more bling; I recently read, for the first time, The Line of Beauty, which won the Booker a few years ago. It seemed like an OK novel, although I wouldn’t want to read it again, and I could see why it won, but it was kind of hard work to read because the writing kept going “I’m good writing, aren’t I? Aren’t I good writing? Look at me being good writing!” It was like some much lionised actors who can’t resist making the audience aware of how much great acting they’re doing. After a while it gets boring: I start wishing they, whether writer or actor, would get out of the way and just let me enjoy the writing (or the acting).
Bad writing is something else again; I almost can’t read it. When I was a kid I was a voracious reader, and you would have thought I’d have loved Enid Blyton, but I could never get on with her, because the woman couldn’t write. I know lots of people loved her, but not me. To take another example, I’ve never read Fifty Shades of Grey (and never wanted to), but I know from the press coverage that E L James supposedly does not write well. Around the time that the film was released I thought I’d better see what all the fuss was about, so I picked up a copy in the supermarket and opened it at random. It opened (surprise surprise) at one of the sex scenes, and I had a read. I got about two paragraphs down the page before giving up, not because of the sex (with which I have no problem, although this particular scene did go on, as far as I could see, for about nineteen pages. Nineteen pages! Who has the time?!), but because the writing was SO BAD. I mean, it was beyond bad. It was so far beyond bad it was almost farcical. It was Enid Blyton all over again – I didn’t care how much other people liked it, I couldn’t read it. (If you want some examples of just how bad the writing is, Google “Fifty Shades of Grey bad writing, and enjoy!)
*It’s getting silly now….