No matter how much some writers – and I’m talking about more than just fiction here – like to cram $2.00 words into long, dense paragraphs, I believe simpler is harder. Simpler is clearer. Simpler is simply freakin’ better. Every damn time.
If the type of reader you’re targeting has to read a sentence more than once in order to comprehend its meaning, that sentence should be rewritten. Simple as that.
I came across this passage in Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and, not only did it make me laugh out loud, it also struck me as incredibly evocative. The author and chef (a man I adore) is not only incredibly entertaining on his Travel Channel Show No Reservations, he is also one damn fine writer.
Here the wise chef is writing about the midlife crisis-afflicted male who decides – incredibly foolishly and with no experience whatsoever – to get into the money-sucking restaurant business:
“Maybe the dentist is having a midlife crisis. He figures the Bogie act will help pull the kind of chicks he could never get when he was yanking molars and scraping plaque. You see a lot of this ailment – perfectly reasonable, even shrewd businessmen, hitting their fifties, suddenly writing checks with their cock. And they are not entirely misguided in this; they probably will get laid. The restaurant business does have somewhat more relaxed mores about casual sex, and there are a number of amiably round-heeled waitresses, most of them hopelessly untalented aspiring actresses for whom sexual congress with older, less attractive guys is not entirely unfamiliar.”
I’m not going to dump about six pounds of lead into this post by analyzing just how much he manages to convey in so few words. Just savor it.
And, I hope, appreciate just how incredibly hard it is to write this well. (For a free taste of Bourdain at his irascible best, check out his famous- or more rightly, perhaps, infamous – Food Network rant.)