How not to write, by Joseph Conrad

I’m trying to be more literary by reading real books on the train in the morning (instead of my usual Cosmo, InStyle, Redbook, etc.) but this week’s selection is not working for me.

I grabbed a copy of Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad, when I left the apartment Monday morning. I had this habit when I was living in Tennessee of buying second-hand books by the authors I enjoyed. So, since Heart of Darkness was a fond memory from AP English, I grabbed this Conrad special and then promptly forgot about it. I moved it from Nashville to DC, but never read it.

So let’s just get this out there: what the what was JC smoking when he wrote this? The sentences are so long that I can’t find the storyline! I have to re-read sentences to figure out which clauses are descriptive and which are plot. And yes, I know there’s all sorts of literary greats out there who think this novel is awesome, but what-ev-er. At least for the first 28 pages, I am annoyed at JC’s relentless verbosity.

Let’s sample a sentence:

“Complete strangers would accost each other familiarly, just for the sake of easing their minds on the subject: every confounded loafer in the town came in for a harvest of drinks over this affair: you heard of it in the harbour office, at every ship-broker’s, at your agent’s, from whites, from natives, from half-castes, from the very boatmen squatting half-naked on the stone steps as you went up — by Jove!” (And it keeps going but we’ll stop here.)

And, while long sentences are hard enough, he also writes incredibly long paragraphs! It is uncommon to have more than two indentations on each page — paragraphs tend to be 2/3 of a page long.

I can’t find the focus to stay with JC while the train bobs and weaves and strangers push against me. But I’m going to try to get through page 50 without giving up. Because apparently this writing style is some kind of social commentary on the psychology of man. We’ll see about that. Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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