Friday, October 25, 2013


I'm reading Rex Stout's detective stories for the first time, and they're all kinds of fun.  Great stories, great characters, and a style that rivals Graham Greene's in its subtlety and skill.  I'll often laugh out loud while reading, sometimes because it's funny but mostly because of some stylistic gem.  I'll read a line and for a minute it will seem like any other sentence in any noir-style hackery ever written, and then I'll get struck with the sly poetry of Stout's word-craft.

There's not much of a premium placed on style these days - there's some good storytelling going on, but style and craftsmanship in writing seems to be considered archaic or pretentious or not worth the effort for readers whose artistic sensibilities were formed by more visual media.

Recently my family had a conversation about the craft of making movies.  I mentioned that I thought most of the geniuses of style, the Wodehouses of today, are making movies or TV shows rather than writing books.

My favorite example is Wes Anderson.  He uses the cinematic medium the way Wodehouse crafts the written word - shot after shot of playful and exquisite beauty, heartbreaking whimsy heavy with the "weight of glory."  My top three favorite movies include his so-far masterpiece The Darjeeling Limited, and my next twenty would probably include the rest of his work.

He has a new movie coming out next year, and I just watched the trailer.  The cast is a who's who of Wes Anderson's favorites - Owen Wilson, Jason Bateman, Bill Murray - with some fabulous additions like Ralph Fiennes.  I squealed in fangirl delight throughout the trailer, and then felt happy because, even if they aren't novelists, there are artists making art today that makes me just as excited as I would have been in 1938 waiting for the next installment of Nero Wolfe or Bertie Wooster.

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