"HAVE YOU GOT A BIG BOOKCASE?
Because if you have, we have a BIG BOOK for you..."
- A most successful advert by SF writer Frederik Pohl, 1947
I've been reading some of my favourite authors from the 1950's again: Vonnegut, Heller, Heinlein, Pohl. They've reminded me why I love Strunk and White. Amongst these writers' modernist trickery one aspect stands out: the hammer-like impact of ideas delivered using the fewest possible words. Truly, long sentences and long paragraphs are wonderful; they can flow across a page with intricate complexity. But I still like to see a paragraph end with a hard statement. Brevity can give power.
In the 1950's they understood this. Books came out punchy, forceful. Salinger's collected works number less than a thousand pages, Vonnegut's books rarely broke two hundred. Terse prose can be as potent as poetry, but without the arbitrary restrictions of rhyme and metre. The great artists of this aesthetic weren't trained as poets. After they brushed the dirt of Europe and The Pacific from their jackets they took jobs in newsprint and advertising. Channeling truth, paid by the word.
"Think small." - A legendary advert for the Volkswagen Beetle, 1959.