BRIDGET WHELAN writer

Muse, News and Views

READING LIKE A WRITER – putting rhythm into prose

“Words have music and if you are a musician you will write to hear them” – E.L. Doctorow

Lyrical ProseRhythm isn’t the sole preserve of poets or musicians – prose writers can also be lyrical if we write with our ear as well as our hand. This short passage from John McGahern’s memoir shows what can be achieved with repetition and a feel for how words sound together.  John McGahern is one of the most important novelists and short story writers that came out of Ireland at the end of the 20th century. His last two books That They May Face the Rising Sun (a novel) and Memoir (written after he was diagnosed with cancer) are written with a simple melodic beauty.

Heaven was in the sky. My mother spoke to me of heaven as concretely and with as much love as she named the wild flowers. Above us the sun of heaven shone. Beyond the sun was the gate of heaven.

But rhtymn doesn’t have to be serene. You can use it to jag up the senses, overthrow conventions. There’s an altogether different tempo playing in this description of Los Angeles in Martin AmisMoney.

You walk left, you walk right, you are a bank rat on a busy river. This restaurant serves no drink, this one serves no meat, this one serves no heterosexuals. You can get your chimp shampooed, you can get your dick tattooed, twenty-four hour, but can you get lunch? 

What is it: modern jazz, punk? I’m thinking more along the lines of a perspiring Jacques Brel with a glass in his hand.

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2 comments on “READING LIKE A WRITER – putting rhythm into prose

  1. creativityorcrazy
    November 2, 2013

    This is so true and I love reading a passage that’s music to the ears. I read everything I write trying to see if it flows good. Still working on learning how things should sound, sometimes I’m hit or miss.

  2. bridget whelan
    November 3, 2013

    I’m a great believer in reading aloud – it helps with the flow and can even reveal where the commas should go (but then I’m mean with commas).

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