I just finished reading a novel by PD James.

More fool me I suppose. I just don’t like the rather prissy way she writes, I’d figured this out years ago. But I got bored and picked one up a week or two ago.

PD James is now in her 70’s, or thereabouts, and it shows. The style of writing is from a bygone age, when words were crafted for how they sounded, as much if not more than what they meant.

Here is an example, which I found particularly irritating:

An arrow in white wood with the words ‘Perigold Pottery’ painted in black was fixed to a post stuck into the grass of the verge.

This sentance, at first glance, seems just fine. Once you start to analyse the grammar, it’s actually very difficult to understand. There are 7 subjects (things being referenced) here: the arrow, the wood, the words, the paint, the post, the grass, and the verge. In a single sentence!

This could be be re-written: “A post stuck in the grass of the verge had an arrow, showing the words ‘Perigold Pottery’”. Or it could be trimmed even more, and just say there was sign. Why all the excessive detail? It was of no relevance whatsoever to the story.

There are more examples than I care to go and find, that above is only notable because my irritation level had risen to the point where I wanted to grab a red pen and start marking up changes to the text.

Modern writing tends to be tighter, more terse, and requires far less hard intellectual work to read. Desirable, when we read for pleasure or to escape the hard intellectual work of the daily grind. Don’t give me more of what I’m trying to escape from!



Heheh.. you spelled “Sentence” as “Sentance” :) Hehe.


Comment by Duncan Margetts | July 13th, 2009 8:37 am | Permalink

Well last night, for only the third time in my entire life, I gave up reading a book – at 500 pages or ONE THIRD of the way in. Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’ was less engrossing than reading the white pages.

Comment by Kath Lockett | July 13th, 2009 11:02 am | Permalink

If you want to really waste time, try looking at any of the Agatha Christie stories on ABC Sunday nights. The latest series of Miss Marple has just finished. Talk about ridiculous stories about a way of life that probably never existed. All those high class poms poncing around in their country houses doing no real work and killing each other in such a way that the incompetent police always rely on Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot to solve the problem. Bah Humbug!!
And to Kath; you’re not the only person who has abandoned that particular book after total frustration.

Comment by Dad | July 13th, 2009 8:32 pm | Permalink

Ha! If you want to enjoy a good read and exercise the brain cells at the same time, read anything (well, preferably everything) written by Cormac McCarthy. If you haven’t read him yet I can thoroughly recommend him for a gutsy challenging and entertaining read. McCarthy’s “The Road” is coming as a movie; read it first. If you saw “No Country For Old Men” read the book NOW!

Comment by Rob | July 15th, 2009 6:14 pm | Permalink

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