1. Aeroflot
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    Aeroflot Senior Member

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    Dense Literature

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Aeroflot, May 11, 2009.

    I know what it is and how to write it, but what exactly makes the language dense? There are words strewn across the page just like any other book, and most of the dense stuff I'm reading doesn't employ any bigger words than Harry Potter, so why is it slower and more difficult to read? I just read the first page of Gravity's Rainbow and the words are easy to read and the sentences are short, but it's thick like syrup. Is there some sort of concrete answer to how this thickness develops?

    Another question. Is there a difference between rich and dense?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Is this the paragraph you mean?
    Sentence fragments dominate the paragraph. The first long sentence )Above him lift girders ...) is unfortunately not trivial to parse - is lift used as a verb, or are lift girders the girders of an elevator shaft? The entire paragraph sets a mood, but the imagery isn't presented cleanly. Is it pitch black? Can the mysterious observer even see the gitrders and glass, or does he simply know they are there? The daylight would stream down, but there isn't any. The paraqgraph flits madly between was is, was, and might be, so it lacks focus.

    You can argue the quality of the overall writing, but to me it is ust very muddy, at least here, at the entry point of the novel.

    Yes, there is a difference between rich and dense. If the detail is obscured by poor structure or by redundant modifiers. it is dense. If every word adds contributes to the clarity and detail of the scene being painted, it is rich.
     
  3. Aeroflot
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    Aeroflot Senior Member

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    Yeah, that's one of the passages that came to mind right away.

    Are dense and rich always antonyms, or can dense be a good thing? I'm wondering if Pynchon was using fragments like you said to set the mood, and then writes clearly later on.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think they are really antonyms. A dense passage may contain a lot of vivid detail. However, if it is too tedious to wade through, the richness will probably be lost for the reader.
     
  5. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Something moving, like wind, helps to break up heavy description, even if it is part of the description. If you describe the rustle of someone's robes, and then go on to describe the robes, it appears to the reader as if the story has moved on when it hasn't.
     
  6. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    That paragraph in particular is slowed down a lot by an unusually large number of pauses. If you pause for one second at commas and two at full stops, its already gonna take you close to a minute just to read that. Furthermore, the fragments mean that sentences don't flow as easily as full sentences may. But I think its still all presented clearly, his detail is very explicit (I think its clear that lift is being used as a verb, perhaps wrongly substituted for rise). I wouldn't read dense as being a bad thing, just another thing. It will suit some readers and annoy others, that's just how writing works.
     
  7. Aeroflot
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    Aeroflot Senior Member

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    I was wondering after you said that about what I noticed the other day: I hate reading short stories, because I have to start a story all over again and it's a pain to get into a whole new story right away with new characters, new plot, new setting, etc. I prefer reading novels because the words go on and on and on for hundreds of pages. Maybe somehow the psychology is the same.
     
  8. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    Aero, I have to agree with you...I much prefer reading long novels to short stories because I feel that I have to stop reading a short story way too soon for my liking. I want a long story so that I'll feel more satisfaction out of it when I get to the end.

    ~Lynn
     

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