Monday, October 20, 2008

Out with the old?

Yesterday, Nicole and I went to see our friend in a production of Pirates of Penzance. The singing was great, the acting was great, but I felt like the play itself was so slow paced. I laughed a few times, I know the play isn't as much about the story as it is about the comedy, but so often I felt like screaming, "Get on with it already!"

At intermission, I looked through the program and saw that the play was first performed in 1879, long before "talking pictures" and television. The expected pace for telling a story was different. Now we want movement, more forward momentum at a quicker speed. We have a low tolerance for meandering.

The question is, does this translate into books? I love Edgar Allen Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle, but they certainly told a story at a different pace. I can't say that any of their books could be described as, "gut-wrenching suspense" or "edge of your seat reads". Poe is one of my favorite authors and although is work is creepy and brilliant, I wouldn't call it fast paced.

I talked about this in a post last month, but I find it interesting that the issue of pace continues to come up. Is it an issue of a generation? Have we become too accustomed to instant gratification that the books and plays of the 19th century are too dated to enjoy? I remember taking 19th century literature and hating it, partially because there was too much Jane Austen, but mostly because the books couldn't keep my attention. Was it simply a style of the times? Is our style much better?

I have yet to draw a conclusion on any of this, but I do think it's sad that it has become difficult to appreciate the classics because of their long-winded prose and meandering storylines. Nowadays, more emphasis is placed on pacing and plot than it is on style and prose. But is this a good thing? Or could we stand to learn something from our 19th century ancestors?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it is unfortunate that so much rich and fabulous literature is lost on a younger generation raised on immediate gratification, fast-paced stimulation, and less intellectually challenging material.