Tuesday, July 06, 2004

the obsolescence of minimalism

Atlantic Unbound | January 24, 2001

Raymond Carver's reputation as an American master of short fiction is as good as etched in stone. But his hardbitten prose style has had its day

by Sven Birkerts (check out AGNI, the litmag he edits)
"...Doubtless there are many other forces in play, but the upshot is the same. The ground, the cultural soil—that element that our writers represent and from which they draw—has been completely spaded up and turned since Carver's day. The writer who now picks up his pen—or, as is more likely, turns on his laptop—tunes in to a very different frequency. Understatement, once very nearly reflexive, sounds suddenly wrong. The held-back sentence looks almost funny on the page; there is a perceptible pressure to open out, annex, pull some of that overwhelming ambient complexity into the circuitry of the sentence. And if this is an exaggeration, it is nonetheless true enough to warrant our attention.

Short sentences are—structurally—all alike. Every complicated sentence is complicated in its own way. Even a glance at some of the touted prose of recent years will confirm the new expressive plenitude—or chaos."