Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tone Is Everything, Part 2

A Crap Writer?
Why is tone everything in art? It's because tone is what makes you want or not want to spend time with a given novel, recording, movie, painting. Tone is how the basic attitude or sensibility of the artist is communicated. If you like that attitude then you can forgive blemishes and if you don't like that attitude then no virtues of technique or narrative will redeem things for you. This is why you can go to Amazon and Ernest Hemingway will get no shortage of negative ratings. Ernest Frickin' Hemingway! I'm guessing that's because they don't like his stoic world-weary tone and terse, seen-it-all dialogue. Which I happen to love, and which allow plot lines to be more subtle and naturalistic. So, 5 stars from me, and 2 from someone else. Here's another example from literature. I saw a Kate Atkinson novel displayed on the Staff Picks shelf at the local bookstore and decided to give it a go. After 30 pages or so I could tell that there were places where the author meant to be hip or funny but I didn't find it hip or funny. At that point the virtues of the plot were irrelevant, and I bailed out. Tone and taste are interrelated concepts, aren't they? Almost two ways of saying the same thing.

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