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Lavaliar

Some RJ Criticism

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So, I am almost finished TGH. In my opinion, it is an even better novel than EOTW. I've reached a point where Jordan has dropped the faux English "stock fantasy writing style" prose. I am reading a strong American voice and I like it. From what I understand, that voice becomes increasingly Southern-American as the series progresses and I am looking forward to that.

 

As with any author, there will be aspects of the writing that annoy certain readers. Compared to most fantasy I have read, Jordan is almost entirely free of these annoyances. His prose is head and shoulders above the majority, easily classed with Tolkien and Peake (although not as experimental or overtly literary as Peake). The writers he reminds me most of are Patrick O'Brian (prose) and Tolstoy (style and structure).

 

Here are my problems:

 

1. My biggest criticism is Jordan's tendency to qualify terms, especially with the word "though". It really weakens the prose and if I had edited him, I would have urged him to remove all of the "thoughs", along with "seems/seemed", "as if", "however", "perhaps" etc.

 

2. Jordan also tended to bury the subject at the end of a sentence, sometimes incredibly long & labyrinthine sentences. It is sometimes hard to follow and very simple editing would have eliminated this problem entirely. It also obscures otherwise strong desciptions. Having said that, I confess to opening later volumes and reading out of curiosity, and it appears to me that Jordan developed that style into something deeply layered and incredibly complex.

 

3. There are definitely passages that seem to have been let go of. This is understandable and I don't hold it against the text. The book is enormous and I'm sure there were difficult scenes that Jordan wrote and rewrote and simply had to walk away from at some point.

 

Otherwise, I am loving the prose. Granted my taste tends toward the windy & voluminous (Tolstoy, Tolkien, Byatt, Chabon, Foster Wallace etc.) but I also understand & appreciate concise prose (Orwell, E.M. Forster, Philip Roth). But I have no problem with deep detail or huge structures - to be honest, I love all of that (my favorite sf novel remains "Dune"). I am also not criticizing Harriet, I think she did an extraordinary job midwifing this gigantoid work into the world.

 

I'll also add that both EOTW and TGH feel rushed in places. I am actually looking forward to the less headlong volumes; I'd like to luxuriate in all the detail :smile:

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Based on your explanation above, you are going to greatly enjoy these books until TGS and the author switch. Then you might have some serious issues with how unpolished and blunt the prose gets under Sanderson. As the series continues it evolves almost perfectly into what you seem to like.

 

You also have hit on a great point. Some of RJ's books could have been much better with a more heavy handed editor. Awesome that you are just starting on this journey, keep us updated with your thoughts as you go!

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Based on your explanation above, you are going to greatly enjoy these books until TGS and the author switch. Then you might have some serious issues with how unpolished and blunt the prose gets under Sanderson. As the series continues it evolves almost perfectly into what you seem to like.

 

I'm sure it won't be the same but at least the story has a conclusion.

 

BS...doesn't work for me. But at a glance it looks like he brought his "A Game" to WOT.

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I have to confess, although I love a good adventure story & it's exciting the way the narrative just keeps rolling, I am getting annoyed that every time we get a glimpse of anything (Steddings, White Tower, the "Great Game") the story is interrupted by a crisis. I know the majority of people think of that as the "plot" and that it must be slavishly followed no matter what, but I am really looking forward to the less artificially constructed volumes.

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It's good to see someone elses first hand account of their first read through of the series. I think the reason everyone got a little impatient with around books 7-10 is because they just wanted to know what happened, and possibly weren't that bothered about the actual prose of the book. It's definitely a lot more interesting the second time round.

 

Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts!

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1. My biggest criticism is Jordan's tendency to qualify terms, especially with the word "though". It really weakens the prose and if I had edited him, I would have urged him to remove all of the "thoughs", along with "seems/seemed", "as if", "however", "perhaps" etc.

 

I found your 2nd and 3rd points interesting. However, I do not see the rational for the point above. Could you please expand upon it? I am attempting to write creatively myself and I seem to have gotten into the habit of writing in the way you describe, so it would be particularly beneficial to me to understand the drawbacks of such a method of writing.

 

Thanks for your help.

 

 

Edit: I guess my own paragraph above will provide a good example of what I mean. :)

Edited by Darkhorse

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they just wanted to know what happened, and possibly weren't that bothered about the actual prose of the book.

 

I'm sorry...

 

Who besides English professors and effete snobs who are obsessed with trying to prove how smart they are to the rest of the world reads a work of commercial fiction for the prose?  Seriously dude, unless you're talking about some esoteric literary work that has no plot and no point (spoken - a work of literary masturbation) the point of a book is story.  It is story that matters - the characters, their problems, and how they resolve them.  In that context, the definition of quality prose is that which conveys the story as clearly and effectively as possible.  Nothing more.

 

God I get SO SICK of people who say things along the lines of, "Yeah the story and plot was grand, it totally sucked me in and kept me turning the pages.  But the prose was lacking.  That author sucks.  He can't write worth a damn."

 

*snort*

 

That is total BS.  In commercial fiction, good writing = good story.  Anything else is maybe a bonus.  

 

If all you want is prose, go read Joyce, or any number of the other un-readably masturbatory literary "gods" out there.  Just don't expect to get sucked into the world, or to give a damn what happens to the characters.  But hey, it's only the prose that matters, right?

 

 

Sheesh.

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Still think Jordan dwells on things for way too long. I'm almost done with book 8.

 

Did Mogheiden need to be humiliated for that long? Do the Aes Sedai need to humiliated for as long as they have been as well?

 

Maybe the problem is that the reader is meant to enjoy these things and go "Yes! These jerks deserve it!"... I don't.

 

Maybe I'm weird

Edited by EmperorAllspice

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they just wanted to know what happened, and possibly weren't that bothered about the actual prose of the book.

 

I'm sorry...

 

Who besides English professors and effete snobs who are obsessed with trying to prove how smart they are to the rest of the world reads a work of commercial fiction for the prose?  Seriously dude, unless you're talking about some esoteric literary work that has no plot and no point (spoken - a work of literary masturbation) the point of a book is story.  It is story that matters - the characters, their problems, and how they resolve them.  In that context, the definition of quality prose is that which conveys the story as clearly and effectively as possible.  Nothing more.

 

God I get SO SICK of people who say things along the lines of, "Yeah the story and plot was grand, it totally sucked me in and kept me turning the pages.  But the prose was lacking.  That author sucks.  He can't write worth a damn."

 

*snort*

 

That is total BS.  In commercial fiction, good writing = good story.  Anything else is maybe a bonus.  

 

If all you want is prose, go read Joyce, or any number of the other un-readably masturbatory literary "gods" out there.  Just don't expect to get sucked into the world, or to give a damn what happens to the characters.  But hey, it's only the prose that matters, right?

 

 

Sheesh.

What an extraordinarily narrow minded viewpoint. The story is a point of a book. Not the only one. People read books for different reasons, and get different things out of them. There is nothing in the nature of commercial fiction which prevents it from containing good prose, and there is equally nothing that prevents a book from having both good prose and a good story. They are not mutually exclusive qualities, it's just difficult for a writer to be very good at everything - but that just means those authors who are good at every aspect should be more appreciated, not denigrated for daring to combine good prose with a good story. No-one said all they wanted was prose, no-one said that only prose mattered. It is possible for a reader to appreciate both - and one doesn't have to be a literature professor or trying to impress people with how smart you are to do so either. Prose which conveys the story clearly and effectively is the very least of what one should ask for from good quality prose. There is so much more that could be appreciated from a book.

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Question. What makes "good" prose? Is it subjective? Or are there rules or judging good prose?

 

It's incredibly subjective! I've been trying to read Johnathan Franzen's "Freedom" but I can't get into it; personally, I can't see why his prose is so revered, I think it's clunky and monotonous. But that's just me, plenty would disagree.

 

It's a funny thing, 'good' prose can take many endless forms, from Agatha Christie to William Faulkner to A.S. Byatt, but bad prose tends to always carry the same weaknesses: poorly thought out stories, weak characters, recycled plots, recycled storylines, and the kind of amateur prose mistakes that usually mark a beginner - when you see all of that in, say, a bestselling or highly successful novelist, you tend to think: "bad writing". That's pretty much what 'pulp fiction' is for. The ideas, setting, or genre are enough to satisfy the reader. We all have our favorite genres: I like detective stories, espionage, and westerns; I read a lot of second rate stuff because it just happens to be in those genres.

 

With 'good' or 'great' prose it's hard to pin-point just what makes it special, but you know it when you see it!

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they just wanted to know what happened, and possibly weren't that bothered about the actual prose of the book.

 

I'm sorry...

 

Who besides English professors and effete snobs who are obsessed with trying to prove how smart they are to the rest of the world reads a work of commercial fiction for the prose?  Seriously dude, unless you're talking about some esoteric literary work that has no plot and no point (spoken - a work of literary masturbation) the point of a book is story.  It is story that matters - the characters, their problems, and how they resolve them.  In that context, the definition of quality prose is that which conveys the story as clearly and effectively as possible.  Nothing more.

 

God I get SO SICK of people who say things along the lines of, "Yeah the story and plot was grand, it totally sucked me in and kept me turning the pages.  But the prose was lacking.  That author sucks.  He can't write worth a damn."

 

*snort*

 

That is total BS.  In commercial fiction, good writing = good story.  Anything else is maybe a bonus.  

 

If all you want is prose, go read Joyce, or any number of the other un-readably masturbatory literary "gods" out there.  Just don't expect to get sucked into the world, or to give a damn what happens to the characters.  But hey, it's only the prose that matters, right?

 

 

Sheesh.

What an extraordinarily narrow minded viewpoint. The story is a point of a book. Not the only one. People read books for different reasons, and get different things out of them. There is nothing in the nature of commercial fiction which prevents it from containing good prose, and there is equally nothing that prevents a book from having both good prose and a good story. They are not mutually exclusive qualities, it's just difficult for a writer to be very good at everything - but that just means those authors who are good at every aspect should be more appreciated, not denigrated for daring to combine good prose with a good story. No-one said all they wanted was prose, no-one said that only prose mattered. It is possible for a reader to appreciate both - and one doesn't have to be a literature professor or trying to impress people with how smart you are to do so either. Prose which conveys the story clearly and effectively is the very least of what one should ask for from good quality prose. There is so much more that could be appreciated from a book.

Tsk Mr Ares. Fantasy can't be good literature. What are you on about with that nonsense?

 

As alexeip said many of those so called great authors are actually "un-readable". They don't have any plot or point to their books.  Pshhh strong prose in a commercial work, whoever heard of such a thing. In the case of Brandon's work with the WoT don't pay attention to the blunt potwork, poor characterization or lack of immersion. If wanting to know what happened in the end of AMoL kept you turning the pages just be grateful with the ending. It's just commercial fantasy after all, no need to hold the author accountable. You sir are out of line.

 

@Lavalier

 

Prose is not entirely subjective. While as you said one doesn't have to always like strong prose as in your case with Franzen. When the prose is lacking one can often point to issues and technical deficiencies that take away from the strength. There certainly are objective elements.

Edited by Suttree

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I am actually looking forward to the less headlong volumes; I'd like to luxuriate in all the detail :smile:

 

I am one of the people that has always been critical of books 7-10. But even so, I've always criticized them for the lack of main story progression, never for a lack in the writing itself. I enjoyed the books, but always felt disappointed at the end that, while it was very enjoyable to read, very little got accomplished.

 

From your description, it sounds like you will absolutely love the whole series, at least all of Jordan's books in it.

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Best prose writing in fantasy that I can think of off the top of my head is scribed by Ursula Le Guin... then Tolkien. Jordan does write strong prose, especially for fantasy. But, there are mistakes throughout the books that are a bit surprising. That said, I do love a book where you get both great story and great prose but I'll take story strength over prose writing strength most of the time.

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1. My biggest criticism is Jordan's tendency to qualify terms, especially with the word "though". It really weakens the prose and if I had edited him, I would have urged him to remove all of the "thoughs", along with "seems/seemed", "as if", "however", "perhaps" etc.

 

This is not Jordan's fault. Every writer has similar problems. Everybody has problems with their style.

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My main RJ criticism (besides what he did to some characters like make Perrin all moody and Egwene miss know it all) was the constant man vs women.  Just seemed like so much men only think with their beard, women just nag, women know best etc... throughout the book.

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Prose is entirely subjective. To even discuss "strengths" and "deficiencies" means you have subjectively presupposed what falls into each category. It's dishonest to suggest otherwise.

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Prose is entirely subjective.

 

Funny, you may want to alert the UC system because that isn't what's being taught to lit majors.

Edited by Suttree

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And you trust the UC system, of all things, to be objective about the matter? Please tell me I did not just read that.

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Do I trust what was taught by my professors in the world's premiere public university system over a random unsupported opinion on the internet? Care to wager a guess on that one?

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You can start making the "world's premiere" system [removed] proud by actually addressing my point, and describing exactly how your esteemed professors [removed] objectively determine the strengths and weaknesses of prose.

Edited by Barid Bel Medar

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Here's my two cents...or more:

 

I've just skimmed through this thread so forgive me if I just repeat things others have said. I would read it all if I hadn't been reading so much lately, lol.

 

I understand the criticisms people have given RJ. My best friend tried out WoT when she saw how obsessed with it I was, but she didn't get into it the way I did. She found it too drawn out and felt the book went nowhere. It was completely the opposite for me! I cannot tell you how many times, throughout the entire series, I stopped reading for WEEKS because I just didn't want to face what came next. I was anxious about it.

 

So going back to subjectivity, it seems that's the heart of 'prose'. If you read analytically and pay close, conscious attention to where words are placed and where you would place them if you were RJ, then you'll see flaws and perfections others weren't seeing. In my case, I never once found myself questioning RJ or Harriet or the division of chapters. I was too damn busy laughing at Mat or worrying about that one thing that happened five chapters back. I was truly too immersed to criticise.

 

In my opinion, good writers manage to take you beyond their words and punctuation. In another person's opinion, a good writer is good only once judged against literary criteria. I suppose all it comes down to is what philosophy you have when it comes to literature. If reading is about enjoying a story, you would judge a writer based on whether you enjoyed his story -seems obvious, I know. If reading is about putting WORDS together in a certain way, you judge a writer based on the details of his writing. Good news is, nobody is wrong here.

 

It comforts me to read other people's criticisms of RJ because while they may have a point ("oh, he uses blabla too often and should use bleh bleh instead), I didn't see any of that when I was reading. That doesn't mean I'm stupid, incapable of literary analysis or a sloppy reader. It means that RJ wrote in exactly the right way for me. So my love for WoT becomes even more validated when I see how others didn't experience it the way I did.

 

It seems any analysis can become a criticism. My analyses have just happened to remain praises. Lucky me ^.^

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