Against Terse American Prose
If the history of the American sentence were a John Ford movie, its second act would conclude with the young Ernest Hemingway walking into a saloon, finding an etiolated Henry James slumped at the bar in a haze of indecision, and shooting him dead. The terse, declarative sentence in all its masculine hardness routed the passive involutions of a higher, denser style. As a result, pared-down prose of the sort editor Gordon Lish would later encourage in Raymond Carver became our default "realism". This is a real loss, not because we necessarily need more Jamesian novels but because too often the instruction to "omit needless words" leads young writers to be cautious and dull; minimalist style becomes minimalist thought, and that is a problem.