Language vs. Story

One of the things we discussed at our last book club meeting was that Harbach was clearly a very good writer, but that most of us didn’t really like the way the book went, how the story unfolded. But wouldn’t being a “good writer” include having something to say that is compelling and engaging? To a certain extent, yes. But on another level, perhaps not.

This has come up several times in our book club discussions actually. Take for instance Gilead. Not an incredible story of its own, but the language and writing were superb and really made the book. Or on the other end there is Ender’s Game–a great, fast, compelling story. Does that mean that Orson Scott Card is an great writer? Perhaps, but not really of the same sort.

Some people say that the medium is the message. Some people say that the message is the message. Some people say that the median is the message–but those people are statisticians and actuaries and who listens to them anyway?

So what do you read for–great writing or a great story? Of course most everyone will say both, at least to a degree, but there is a continuum. Are you more drawn to great language or a great story? The rare book combines them both on a high level, but if you have to go for more of one than the other, which do you usually choose? Let us know in the comment section.

About Luke

Luke learned to read at the age of two, whereupon he decided, like much of the male population, that it was a chore to be done only when absolutely necessary. Then suddenly at age nineteen, he discovered good books—he has been reading voraciously ever since, earning multiple literature and writing degrees. At any given moment you'll find him reading at least one book, smoking a cigar, up fifty feet in a tree he free-climbed.

Currently Reading:
Collected Stories by Alexander Pushkin
-Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
The Mystery of Being by Gabriel Marcel

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