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Friday, April 15, 2022

Puffed Up "Literary" Novels

The "literary" novel runs the risk of what the French call remplissage, or "literary padding," to fill up pages. There's almost nothing more boring that I can think of than seeing a novelist pad out an under-imagined work that has a slim premise, no more complexity than a child's primer, Styrofoam people who are sociological problems masquerading as characters, not much of a story, is thin in imagery and thought, and contains no artistic or intellectual surprises. Oh, wait, there is something more boring: spending three hundred or four hundred pages with characters you don't enjoy hanging out with and for whom you couldn't care less about "what happens next" to them.

Charles Johnson, The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling, 2016


  1. Maybe the real problem here, Jim, is that modern Westerners simply have nothing to write about. Their lives are dull, their "problems" mostly imaginary. Maybe modern Chinese, Africans or Russians still have genuine existential problems that could fill out a good novel, but we don't. We're too soft and it's all been written before.