I just endured the movie Boyhood. I know it was shot over 12 years or something but I did not know that watching it would feel like a 12 year commitment. And then I slogged through Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, which was like Catcher in the Rye meets Moby Dick. The whaling part. Her theory seemed to be: Why use two or three precise details to set a scene when fifteen will do? Why sketch a situation in a few sentences when a page and half can be used?
Can’t we embrace editing any more? I’ve staggered home from the library under the heft of many a contemporary tome only to stagger back again with them half-read. Even the by-definition short format of the videopoem is largely marred, in my wide watching, often by about a minute and half more than is necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an ardent haiku-ist. Nor do I live a rushed life in which I need to gulp my literature with my morning cuppa before I catch the commuter train. I just want a little judicious use of choice. Writing is nothing if not choice-making. We define an entire world, set a tone, a mood, capture a theme, a character, an intention, a … oh, there I go myself, piling word on word, idea on idea. You get the picture, right? Choices. They are power. They focus. We need ’em. Now go make ’em.
That being said, Boyhood was lauded as the best picture of the year. The Goldfinch was widely praised. So maybe the problem is mine. What am I in such a hurry for? What’s wrong with a leisurely string of words? With a scene that captures life in its sometimes stultifyingly slow cadence?