All posts by CC

Narayan’s Short and Simple Narration

“Swami stood at the entrance to his class. Samuel was teaching arithmetic. He looked at Swami for a moment. Swami stood hoping that Samuel would fall on him and tear his skin off. But Samuel merely asked, ‘Are you just coming to the class?”

Narayan, R.K. New York: Penguin Group, 1984. Print. 69.

The writing style veers more towards the “tell” versus “show,” which works in the context of this short, tale-like chapter. Swami appears to be a young(er) boy, so it makes sense that his point of view is simplistic, without much detail. It’s not that he can’t exhibit or process emotions (he does so well enough), but perhaps it is easier to speak of his situation from a stand-point that prefers to let story speak for itself.

Anand: Purpose in Loaded Descriptions

“He had seen her before…the fresh young form whose full breasts with their dark beads of nipples stood out so conspicuously under her muslin shirt, whose innocent look of wonder seemed to stir the only soft chord in his person, hardened by the congenital weakness of his mind, brazened by the authority he exercised over the faithful and devout. And he was inclined to be kind to her.”

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. New York: Penguin Group, 2014. Print. 29.

I’m torn between being appreciative of the sensuality of the writing, and disgusted by the priest‘s objectification of this young woman. Alas, it’s still strikes me as highly impressive, that I’m able to gather so much about this man within a single chunk of text, and not get lost in it’s heavy, if not poetic, sentence construction.

Faulkner: Dialect and “Voice”

“Now and then a fellow gets to thinking about it. Not often, though. Which is a good thing. For the Lord aimed for him to do and not to spent too much time thinking; because his brain it’s like a piece of machinery: it won’t stand a whole lot of racking. It’s best when it all runs along the same, doing the day’s work and not no one part used no more than needful.”

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. New York: Modern Library, 2000. Print.

Faulkner’s characters often use similes; in the passage, the literary device serves not only as a comparison, but showcases Tull’s dialect, what with the lack of grammar in “because his brain it’s like a piece of machinery,” (a comma is needed here) and “not no one part used no more than needful” (rather than saying, “not using any more parts than necessary.”) Language is the foregroun to Tull’s perspective. It’s what gives him his particular “voice.”

Woolf’s Language/Technique

“The Lord had shown her the way. So now, whenever the hot and painful feelings bolded within her, this hatred of Mrs. Dalloway, this grudge against the world, she thought of God. She thought of Mr. Whittaker. Rage was succeeded by calm. A sweet savor filled her veins, her lips parted, and, standing formidable upon the landing in her mackintosh, she looked with steady and sinister serenity at Mrs. Dalloway, who came out with her daughter.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, 1925. Print.

In this passage, Clarissa’s internal distress fuels a range of metaphors, from the “hot and painful feelings” she experiences, to the “sweet savor [that fills] her veins.” However, Woolf’s ability to emphasize emotions comes at the cost of dragging them out in text, arguably, through awkward phrasing. Really, “steady and sinister serenity”? Is that not a little much?

Text Suits the Context in this Wartime Setting

“While the bombardment was knocking the trench to pieces at Fossalta, he lay very flat and sweated and prayed oh jesus christ get me out of here. Dear jesus please get me out. Christ please please christ. If you’ll only keep me from getting killed I’ll do anything you say. I’ll believe in you and I’ll tell everyone in the world that you are the only one that matters. Please please dear jesus.”

Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1958. Print. 67.

The sentence structure in this paragraph reflects the desperation of the character, especially via the lack of proper grammar, capitalization, and punctuation (indicating extreme disarray; very realistic depiction of a stream of conscious prayer).


Sayers: Using Text to Support Suspense

“—all these things and many others rang together and made one sound, they swung together like bells in a steeple, with the deep tenor booming through the clamour:

‘The knowledge of good and evil is a phenomenon of the brain, and is removable, removable, removable. The knowledge of good and evil is removable.'”

Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009.

Sayer’s language in this passage reflects an authentic inner dialogue, well suited for the content of this novel. The realization is personified by images of a resonating sound, further fueling the intensity of the moment. Within this context, readers are, too, are given textual evidence to assist their understanding of the detective’s reasoning. The recollection of Sir Julian Freke’s statement serves as a grand purpose, especially within the context of this detective story, of which typically relies on a reiteration of facts and words.

Language Detracts from Emotion

“Jeff Cambell staid till the last moment, with Melanctha, to make her mother’s dying easy for her. When it was over he sent in the colored woman from next door to help Melanctha fix things, and then he went away to take care of his other patients. He came back very soon for Melanctha. He helped her to have a funeral for her mother. Melanctha then went to live with the good natured woman, who had been her neighbor. Melanctha still saw Jeff very often. Things began to be very strong between them.”

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” Three Lives. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994. 77. Print.

Stein’s sentence construction is very “telling;” by only revealing the nature in which things and events are occurring, and not the characters’ inter most thoughts preceding these moments, readers are likely to be emotionally detached from Jeff Cambell, Melanctha, and even the poor, deceased elder Herbert.


Conrad: The Power of Human Expression

“The point was in his being a gifted creature and that of all his gifts the one that stood out preeminently, that carried with it a sense of real presence, was his ability to talk, his words–the gift of expression, the bewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted and the most contemptible, the pulsating stream of light or the deceitful flow from the heart of an impenetrable darkness.”

Conrad, Joseph. “Heart of Darkness.” New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1923. 47.

Marlow’s disappointment in not being able to encounter Kurtz is understandable. He personifies expression as something almost unearthly, powerful even, and inherently imbedded in humans. In this case, a lack of presence leads to a lack of dialogue, so not being able to converse with a rumored brilliant mind appears to him as a great loss. The “light” and “darkness” in all individuals, after all,  can only be adequately shown through interpersonal–or, obviously, written–means.

Woolf: A Writer’s Relationship to Fiction

“‘Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semitransparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumcised spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible?”

Woolf, Virginia. “Modern Fiction.” In The Common Reader, 150. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 1925.

The page should reflect the truth of life, in that it may be messy and uncoordinated, but still manages to be (somewhat) comprehensive. Good fiction is not so much defined by imitation, as it is by being able to look deeply within ourselves, and using our unique conscious to speak (and write) of the world as we live it and know it.

The Art of Lying

“People have a careless way of talking about a ‘born liar,’ just as they talk about a ‘born poet.’ But in both cases they are wrong. Lying and poetry are arts — arts, as Plato saw, not unconnected with each other and they require the most careful study, the most disinterested devotion. Indeed,they have their technique, just as the more material arts of painting and sculpture have, their subtle secrets of form and colour, their craft-mysteries, their deliberate artistic methods. As one knows the poet by his fine music, so one can recognise the liar by his rich rhythmic utterance, and in neither case will the casual inspiration of the moment suffice. Here, as elsewhere, practice must precede perfection.”

Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying” in Intentions (New York: The Nottingham Society, 1909), 8.

Oscar discusses aestheticism in relation to lying and poetry, insisting that they both require deliberate construction, in order for “perfection” to be achieved.