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Monday, August 26, 2013

Movies Changed The Way We Write (And Read)


"As more than one critic has noted, today's novelists tend not to write exposition as fully as novelists of the 19th century. Where the first chapter of Stendahl's "Red and the Black" (1830) is given over to the leisurely description of a provincial French town, its topographic features, the basis of its economy, the person of its mayor, the mayor's mansion, the mansion's terraced gardens and so on, Faulkner's "Sanctuary" (1931) begins this way: "From beyond the screen of bushes which surrounded the spring, Popeye watched the man drinking." The 20th-century novel minimizes discourse that dwells on settings, characters' CVs and the like. The writer finds it preferable to incorporate all necessary information in the action, to carry it along in the current of the narrative, as is done in movies.
Of course there are 19th-century works, Mark Twain's "Tom Sawyer," for example (" 'Tom?' No answer."), that jump right into things, and perhaps American writers always have been disposed to move along at a snappier pace than their European counterparts. But the minimal use of exposition does suppose a kind of filmic compact between writer and reader, that everything will become clear eventually. Beyond that, the rise of film art is coincident with the tendency of novelists to conceive of compositions less symphonic and more solo voiced, intimate personalist work expressive of the operating consciousness. A case could be made that the novel's steady retreat from realism is as much a result of film's expansive record of the way the world looks as it is of the increasing sophistications of literature itself."
E. L. Doctorow

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