Friday, 7 August 2015

The Audacity of Prose

Chigozie Obioma - The Audacity of Prose

Before I'd heard of Chigozie Obioma's debut novel The Fishermen - currently long listed for the Man Booker Prize - I'd read the essay he wrote for The Millions entitled "The Audacity of Prose". The essay came my way via Krissy Kneen, a Brisbane writer who said Obioma's essay made her want to stand up and shout 'Hurrah!'

"I've been so bored with the trend towards clean, crisp unadorned prose sweeping the literary world of late. Gone is the poetry and playfulness that marks some of my favourite writing."
This struck such a chord with me that I followed the trail along through her article, to Obioma's essay and then to the first enticing chapter of his novel, now available from the BBC at .

The main contention of Obioma's essay is an objection to the prevailing trend in fiction writing towards sparse, minimalist prose. "The enthroned style," he says "is dished out in schools under the strict dictum: Less is more ... resulting in the crowning of minimalism as the cherished form of writing."
While he accepts that a minimalist style is often the right style for the task at hand, it is also the case, he claims, that "more can also be more, and less is often inevitably less..... excess is excess but inadequate is also inadequate."
Writers today, he says, should be aware that the novels that are remembered will be those that err on the side of audacious prose. Among the proponents of this he includes Nabokov, Updike, Conrad, as well as William Faulkner, Shirley Hazzard, Ian McEwan and Cormac McCarthy to name a few.

Obioma's own fiction prose is anything but ornate. There is no 'flowery' language, no pretension, but neither is there a dominance of those flat, clipped sentences to which present day aspiring writers are so often told they must aspire. On the basis of the one chapter of The Fisherman though, Obiamo is already a master of the exquisite metaphor, the simile so apt we want to stop and write it down.
I for one can't wait to read the lot, and as I sit here on this dreary, grey Melbourne afternoon I can't help but wish to be transported to the Byron Bay Writers' Festival where the man himself will speak any time now. And the sun will most likely be shining, tourists trekking up to the lighthouse, not to mention the Pacific Ocean crashing away across the sandhills....

Oh well, you can at least read his essay here:

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