Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pungent Prose

The hard-boiled detective story comes with an expectation of clipped, world-weary narration, and Michael Chabon doesn't disappoint:

The knot of his gold-and-green rep necktie presses its thumb against his larynx like a scruple pressing against a guilty conscience, a reminder that he is alive.

Another example, shortly thereafter:

The Sitka Saturday afternoon lies dead as a failed messiah in its winding rag of snow.

More important than cynical posturing, however, is the liveliness of the prose. Good writing, really good writing, is invention, combining words and phrases in new ways. It's a safe assumption that the words "dead as a failed messiah" have never before been so arranged.

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