1. Paul V.
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    Paul V. New Member

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    Style Origin of Modern Literary Style

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Paul V., May 14, 2015.

    I've been reading Steven Pinker's new book Sense of Style, and I've noticed that contemporary literature seems to subscribe to some very different notions about stylish prose than writers of the 19th century did. For instance, if you look at The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, the writing style is the antithesis of what most modern writing books prescribe--short, simple sentences that lack adverbs of any kind, etc.

    So, I'm wondering where the modern style originated. Was Hemingway the first to write in the modern style? Is that why he's sometimes referred to as the great American author?
     
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  2. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I've never researched this question but a couple things come to mind. First, radio, film, television, and now the net especially, have radically altered our expectations of entertainment, our attention spans, and shifted us away from the analysis-laden or heavily descriptive story. And two, more people go to and stay in school longer, which leads to higher literacy rates, but not necessarily a greater sophistication of speech (e.g., multiple-clause, half-page sentences occurring in unprepared speech). This leads to a sort of democratization of prose as it becomes closer to our natural speech.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2015
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  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There's no one modern style. If you compare Junot Diaz to Cormac McCarthy to Murakami, you'll see a big difference in their styles. They were all influenced by different writers, each of which had their own unique style (and so on and so on).
     
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  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's a good question and a thoughtful answer. I think there is a lot of difference between what was considered 'modern' style 30 years ago, and what's on the go now. It seems to change decade by decade now.

    Here's a list of bestselling (American) books and authors of the 1980s. The only one still going strong is Stephen King. Many of these books are MUCH too long to be fashionable these days, and some of them are downright educational. (Some not so much!) These were popular books at the time, and that was only just over 30 years ago. Big changes since.

    http://www.ranker.com/list/best-selling-novels-of-the-1980s/bestselling-books
     
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  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Wow, @jannert! What a list! Six (count 'em!) novels by Michener, plus works by Gore Vidal, Leon Uris and James Clavell!

    I think I'm going to cry. :cry:
     
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  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    As to the question of "modern style", I think much is dictated by what must be done to be published in a high-tech, celebrity-driven, self-absorbed, attention-deficit world in which every single thing has to be the "best ever". It's easy to become obsessed with word counts and hooks. And yet, there is still quality fiction being written out there in a variety of styles, some of it even getting published.
     
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  7. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I just read an essay by Twain on the subject that precedes Orwell's about this. If you get the chance check out Letters From the Earth, ch. Cooper's Prose Style. Possibly funnier than Orwell too.
     
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  8. Paul V.
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    Paul V. New Member

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    Jannert, I love the list with Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke on it.
     

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