Does your best paragraph belong in your book?

Consider this paragraph from a well-known novel:

“It rained for eight days without taking a breath. No dank December drizzle this, but rain with attitude. The rogue progeny of some sweet-named Caribbean hurricane had come north, liked it and stayed. Rivers in the Midwest burst their banks and the TV news was awash with images of people crouched on rooftops and the bloated bodies of cattle twirling like abandoned airbeds in swimming-pool fields. In Missouri a family of five drowned in their car while waiting in line at McDonald’s and the President flew in and declared it a disaster, as some on the rooftops had already guessed.”

Do you recognize the passage? If so, you have a good memory. If not, it’s because it’s not usually one of those excerpts that reviewers and sites like GoodReads quote from the novel.

I noticed this paragraph recently because I’m re-reading the book. I smiled as I read it because it’s the kind of thing I would write for a satirical novel or blog post. Bits and pieces of it could even fit in a comedian’s stand-up comedy routine. For satire and/or dark humor, the paragraph is slick, well-written, and filled with sadistic puns and groaner double entendres.

However, the paragraph appears in a book listed as a psychological thriller that focuses on love, loss, family, and coming to grips with massive change. That being the case, I think the author should have cut this graph from the novel and saved it for another book because outside of comedy or satire, this is over the top:

  • taking a breath
  • rain with attitude
  • liked it and stayed
  • news was awash with images
  • abandoned airbeds
  • And then we end with the family drowning in a line at McDonald’s followed by the President declaring it (the flood or the McDonalds?) a disaster area

The passage gets “worse and worse” the farther it goes and becomes really dark with the Missouri family/disaster area juxtapositioning.

I believe most critics and writing professors would classify all this as “too much” in a mainstream novel. In context, the passage seems out of place at the beginning of a subsection in which a young girl is in a coma while her parents wonder if she’ll survive. Perhaps the novelist saw this as a transitional, “adding insult-to-injury” kind of paragraph. Or maybe he liked the contrast between the slick weather description and the horror of the girl supported by machines, tubes, and sensors.

In general, what do you think?

Does your opinion change one way or the other when I tell you this excerpt came from The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans?

Writers are advised to kill their darlings. I wish Evans had pulled the trigger or put these words into a drawer for later use.

Malcolm

My eight novels and numerous short stories fit into the genres of contemporary fantasy, magical realism, paranormal, and satire. Other than the Special Investigative Reporter, my storytelling focuses on magic.