I’m reading Norman Mailer‘s Tough Guys Don’t Dance. About 25% of the way in, and I’m finding it a very slow read. My go-to book has always been a thriller, a mystery, a detective story. Action, something needing resolution. And dialogue.
Mailer’s novel is light on dialogue. Pages and pages of first-person POV. The protagonist drives to a patch of earth on Cape Cod, on a bleak November day. “I liked the dull green of the dune grass and the pale gold of the weeds, and in that late autumn panorama when the beef’s blood and burnt orange are out of the leaves, the colors came down to gray and green and brown, but with what a play between! My eye used to find a dance of hues…”
Contrast that with Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules for good writing. Rule #9: Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
Leonard relied on the strength of dialogue to carry his stories. To paraphrase: Dialogue is showing. It’s not telling. Readers are in a scene and this is one reason it can be so effective and engaging. Good dialogue can do many things. Move a story forward. Reveal character.
Both men are renowned writers. I lean towards the lean.