minimalism & Maximalism

Some examples of Maximalism (writing that is elaborate and tends towards excess, employing long sentences and an abundance of metaphors and similes):

  • Into the Forest by Mark Z. Danielewski
  • 2666 by Roberto Bolaño
  • Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
  • etc. etc. to the count of 18.

That was my way of truncating a whole list of books that I’ve never heard of and never read. Strikes me that if these are the famous ones then I’m not into that style of reading. Nor that kind of writing.

I’ve read a couple by Virginia Woolf (To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway) and these are books with long, elaborate, hypotactical sentences, but little in the way of excitement or metaphor or excess.

I have three books in my drawer by Barbara Kingsolver, none of which I’ve read, but one of which is called The Poisonwood Bible. Check this out for a sentence from the first paragraph: “Every space is filled with life: delicate, poisonous frogs war-painted like skeletons, clutched in copulation, secreting their precious eggs onto dripping leaves.” Wild, right! Will that do as an example?


Several examples of minimalism (writing that is pared down, using fewer adverbs and adjectives, is made up of shorter sentences (more likely to be paratactical), and is more sparing with its imagery):

  • Pfft
  • nah
  • sorry.

There isn’t a list of minimalistic books on the internet. There’s a list of book on how to pare down your life, but that’s not what we want because we’re looking for shorts in terms of sentences and pared down in terms of literary style that includes nothing of life being like a bowl of cucumbers or books being the gateways to worlds that we can live in as nice and neatly as cucumber sandwiches on a silver serving-tray.

I read a book by Cormac McCarthy once that was called No Country For Old Men and this is my favourite part:

Here a year or two back me and Loretta went to a conference in Corpus Christi and I got set next to this woman, she was the wife of somebody or other. And she kept talking about the right wing this and the right wing that.

I aint even sure what she meant by it. The people I know are mostly just common people. Common as dirt, as the sayin goes. I told her that and she looked at me funny. She thought I was sayin something bad about em, but of course that’s a high compliment in my part of the world. She kept on, kept on.

Finally told me, said: I don’t like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I don’t think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin I don’t have much doubt but what she’ll be able to have an abortion. I’m goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she’ll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.

I prefer this kind of short sentence. Nuff said?

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