Both Julie and Annie honed in on the somewhat derogatory "feathery adjectives" reference that Christine Schutt made in the interview with Deborah Solomon and it got me thinking about my affection for a little fluttery prose. (Don't you just love Solomon's irreverent statement about the washing machine? I do.) I have Schutt's book out of the library now and I'll post my impressions of her prose style soon--my sense was that she was trying to describe how her prose is "muscular" and masculine and not at all "girly."
Well, "manly man" prose may be what she appreciates, but I like a little feathery fluttering. True, sloppy use of adjectives can be nauseating but when I think about the writers who take my breath away, they are most often very lyrical and know how to employ their adjectives to the best effect. Particular books/authors that fit this category and come to mind include: Ron Hansen's Mariette in Ecstasy, Jane Mendelsohn's I Was Ameila Earhart, and pretty much anything by Michael Ondaatje.
In the case of Hansen and Mendelsohn I think they pull it off because both authors know how to keep their paragraphs short. I would find their prose overwhelming and too much to absorb if they were long-paragraph writers like Henry James. But they know how to break up images, moments and dialogue so that the fragments are like vivid bursts of light. And they trust their readers to be able to put the pieces together into a coherent image.
Michael Ondaatje seems to be able to do the short fragment style (like in The Collected Works of Billy the Kid and Coming Through Slaughter) and more leisurely, longer lyrical paragraphs (like in In the Skin of a Lion and The English Patient.) But then, I think that Ondaatje is a magician--I'll go wherever he takes me whether it be a short, choppy jog or a long, slow meander.
So, who are your favorite "lyrical" authors? Any thoughts on how they pull it off?