Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Art of Simplicity

Eddie Vedder just came out with a new album. It's called Ukulele Songs. It's a very simple album featuring a few new songs, a scathing Pearl Jam "cover," and some older covered songs. It's incredible. At least I find it incredible. It's incredible in it's simplicity.

Just a guy and a uke and a voice.

As most of you know, I'm a big fan of craft beer too. Different kinds of beer, I'll try pretty much everything. A lot of the craft beer stuff is now going extreme: Bourbon barreled stouts, whiskey infused ales, sours. Artisan stuff. And that's all nice and good to try, but when it comes down to it, I just want a nice simple Ale (and no, no Bud Light or Coors Light)... just a well made Pale Ale or IPA (recommended SixPoint Bengali Tiger).

Give me that and I'm happy.

I feel that way about my books too. The story can be complicated. In fact, the more twisty the better... but the writing... the writing needs to be simple. I don't want to be impressed by the writing. I'm not reading a book to break down the language. I'm not reading a book to be blown away by descriptions.

That has it's place and all, it does, but rarely is it for me. (Sometimes I'll break away and usually I'm impressed and enjoy it...)

But I want to be sucked into the story. Give me good characters. Give me brief descriptions. Show me, don't tell me. And give me a story. I don't want to be distracted by all your awkward similes when I can try to figure out what the character is going to do next.

And sometimes I feel being that simple, being that effortless is an art in itself. An author has to work hard to cut out the hoopdedoole (as Elmore Leonard calls it.). If a character makes me laugh, cry, gasp, or just plain turn the page you got me.

There's a simplicity there. There's an art to it. And sometimes it's hard to come across... but when you do... man. It's a thing to see.

What do you look for when you read?

(Speaking of music: "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" just came on my iTunes. Come on, we all know the simple stuff was the Beatles best stuff. Give me that song any day over "I am the Walrus".)


Paul D Brazill said...


Andrew Leonard said...

Me too.

Dana King said...

I care about the way the story is told as much as, maybe more, than I care about the story. On one side there's writing that is understated, yet effective. Ed McBain comes to mind, with his ability to slip in asides as part of the narrative without being flashy about it.

On the other is James Lee Burke, who can break every rule about how action scenes need to have short, punchy sentences and let a fight unfold in front of you.

As for stories, I have to be able to believe them. Few things will sour me on a story like leading me to a new prime suspect half a dozen times in a book, only to unveil a barely feasible twist to show it's not him, but someone else (who it isn't, either). I like my resolutions to come through a gradually tightening circle.

Mike Dennis said...

Great post, Dave.

And I agree 100% about the Beatles. I never cared for any stuff that came from their drug period (1967 onward), and that pretty much includes Sgt Peppers (oh, the heresy!).

YOU'VE GOT TO HIDE YOUR LOVE AWAY is one of the purest examples of their powerful songwriting, simple yet direct.

Peter Rozovsky said...

The Beatles' simple stuff was their best, you say? But Sgt. Pepper was seminal!
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