Novel Style: Ethics and Excess in English Fiction since the 1960s

ISBN : 9780198766148

Ben Masters
224 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Dec 2017
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We live in a time of linguistic plainness. This is the age of the tweet and the internet meme; the soundbite, the status, the slogan. Everything reduced to its most basic components. Stripped back. Pared down. Even in the world of literature, where we might hope to find some linguistic luxury, we are flirting with a recessionary mood. Big books abound, but rhetorical largesse at the level of the sentence is a shrinking economy. There is a prevailing minimalist sensibility in the twenty-first century.

Novel Style is driven by a conviction that elaborate writing opens up unique ways of thinking; crucial and enriching ways that are endangered when expression is reduced to its leanest possible forms. By re-examining the works of essential English stylists of the late twentieth century (Anthony Burgess, Angela Carter, Martin Amis), as well as a newer generation of twenty-first-century stylists (Zadie Smith, Nicola Barker, David Mitchell), Ben Masters argues for the ethical power of stylistic flamboyance in fiction and demonstrates how being a stylist and an ethicist are one and the same thing. A passionate championing of elaborate writing and close reading, Novel Style illuminates what it means to have style and how style can change us.


1 The Higher Morality: Anthony Burgess and 'The Business of Moral Choice'
2 Ifs, Buts, and Maybes: Angela Carter's Grammar of Curiosity
3 The King in his Countinghouse': Martin Amis and the Decorum of Excess
4 Twenty-First-Century Excess: Levels of Narration in Contemporary Fiction

About the author: 

Ben Masters is a novelist, critic, and Lecturer in Creative Writing at the Open University. His first novel, Noughties, was published in 2012, and he has written for The Times Literary Supplement, Guardian, New York Times, and Five Dials, amongst other publications.

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