Chasms of the Earth staggers on, and if you haven't pitched in yet, there are still seats in all parts. As I grind my way through The Da Vinci Code, feeling a bit like a gigolo who's drawn a seriously short straw, I begin to wonder if the problem is not so much bad writing as bad editing. At various times I've had to edit the work of people I'd previously admired as decent wordsmiths: reading their raw copy, I realised that their reputation was at least partly down to outside help. So maybe Brown really isn't as hopeless as he seems in comparative terms: he's just been let down.
But Dan Vinci is not alone. Increasingly, I find that writers that I've admired for some time are coming up with some absolute horrors. Are they losing their touch? Am I getting more picky, more Lynne Trussy? Or are the invisible editors upon whom these writers rely becoming more slapdash, more ambivalent about leaving their charges on the literary equivalent of a Spartan mountainside? Here's a sentence - yes, a single sentence, of 104 words - from Alan Bennett's most recent prose collection, Untold Stories:
"When I do perform - and it is a performance, as Larkin, who refused as he put it to go round pretending to be himself, pointed out - I generally read from some of the stuff I've written, with my diaries the most popular (plenty of jokes), and then I take questions from the audience before finishing up with five minutes more reading, almost always ending with a speech from my 1980 play Enjoy in which a character describes the contents of a mantelpiece in a working-class household, a passage I have read so often it has become almost like an old-fashioned parlour recitation."
I know Bennett's an excellent nostalgist, but does he think rationing is still in force, and that it's been extended to cover full stops?
PS: Ian Hocking also considers editing, in all its various flavours.