Here’s the situation: Proust writes beautifully but he writes too much. And it’s super class heavy. Like middle class and upper class and generally topics I don’t care one twit about. Occasionally he writes about art and writing itself and so on, but it’s in between. In between parties and who knows who and how much this person needs to be invited to this person’s house.
And it’s a paragraph that consists of 7,219 words when 25 words would have said the same thing.
I can’t take another second of it. Not one more sentence. I read half of the second volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time and the entirety of the first volume and now I’m effing done. I just cannot read this stuff, the classics. The boredom is overwhelming. It’s a thickness that suffocates. It’s a dagger pulled from the muscle slooooowly.
What I’m beginning to sense is that there is too much good writing of bad stories. I had been sensing this for a good long time but only got confirmation after Etgar Keret said basically the same exact thing. He said:
“In America, where writers are preoccupied with the craft of writing, I always try to introduce this concept of the badly written good story. Turning the hierarchy around and putting passion on top and not craft, because when you just focus on craft, you can write something that is very sterile. It looks beautiful, but soulless. So I warn them that, often in writing programs, articulation and clarity are more important than what you actually say. Sometimes you have, like, New Yorker stories—there’s a couple, they’re on a cruise, he’s becoming senile, he doesn’t want to acknowledge it, when the woman mentions it to him, he becomes really angry, but in the end he admits it and they sit on the deck, she closes her eyes. And you say, “It’s so well-written, but who gives a fuck?” For certain, the guy who wrote it doesn’t give a fuck. It’s not something that has to do with his life; it’s just something well-written and illuminating, and writing is not about that. The best stories you usually hear are stories that people feel some type of urgency about. Nobody else in the world would look at writing as craftsmanship—it’s totally this Protestant hardworking ethic. You go into this kind of infinite space of imagination and you fence yourself in with all kinds of laws. Why do we have to keep playing this strange game?”
Dude makes scary sense.
So I’m ditching reading the boring stories and I’m going to go with good stories, even if the writing is bad.