Any publicity is good publicity as the saying goes, which speaks volumes about the times we live in. One would have thought that novelists would be above such aberrations, but the temptation to make a few bucks by dragging a colleague over the coals is too great for some it seems.
Will Self has declared that Orwell is The Supreme Mediocrity. Why? Because he refused to shroud his meaning and therefore his communication in a swathe of learned synonyms. Thank the deities.
Reaching for the thesaurus is fun, and educational to a point, but to deliberately flaunt your superior knowledge of the English language in the reader’s face is pedantic and snobbish. If I were to write in Spanish to a readership that does not command the language, I may as well defecate in the lactate.
Surely the key here is communication? If I want to receive English vocabulary lessons I will attend a night school, I do not need Sticker Bill to enlighten me.
Dumbing down? Not at all. If a word is perfect for the situation, with the resonance and nuance of meaning ideal in that particular context, then it has to be used. Readers are not idiots; they know how to use a dictionary. What they don’t need is a pompous approach to literature that makes reading either a slog or a bore.
Some musicians like to show off their techniques and superior musical knowledge by performing incredibly intricate and complicated pieces full of key changes and bizarre scales. They enjoy themselves, but the audience falls asleep. The alternative is not Madonna – there is a whole world of beauty in between.
So come on Will, drop the publicity stunts and pay a well deserved homage to Orwell.