Changing by choice

NaBloPoMo Jan2011So, it’s the end of January, and I’ve completed the month for NaBloPoMo, and am a month on track for PostADay2011. It’s been basically all books this month, but I have some ideas for getting crafts back in for February, and will make myself do some crochet stuff for March ItCroMo, although I still haven’t come up with a pattern or game for the blog as yet. Hopefully I still will…

Cover of Speech in the English Novel

Cover of Speech inthe English Novel

14. Speech in the English Novel (2nd ed.) by Norman Page

If someone had told me I had to read this book I’d probably have been very annoyed indeed, but when I chose to do so I found it very interesting, and a fairly quick read, for non-fiction. (I tend to read non-fiction a page or two at a time, whereas I devour fiction when I enjoy it.) I didn’t think I liked literary criticism in school, perhaps because it generally seemed to entail focussing on details to the detriment of the story, and without any explanation of how or why this analysis might enhance our understanding and enjoyment of the novel/play/poem/essay under discussion.

However, coming to this book for myself, and bringing my linguistic training to a developing interest (through this blog) in really thinking about what I’m reading beyond whether or not I enjoyed it, I found it both revealing and intriguing.

While the focus of the book is the place and use of dialogue in novels, the scope goes far beyond this, discussing types of speech and speech-like narrative; stylistics and realism within written speech; differentiation between different speakers and what this portrays to the reader, and more. There are plenty of snippets and sections quoted from novels published over approximately 250 years. The author suggests that the focus of this particular work is unusual, and that his purpose is to open up a discussion by setting out various features and definitions.

I’m not sure I’m ready to look into how much this topic has flourished over the past few decades, but I do appreciate that I may now occasionally notice more about the use of speech within all novels, not just English ones (or even ones in English, since Page only tangentially mentions world literature at all). I don’t think I’ll be doing so all the time, nor would I want to, since I still feel that focussing too much on the craft takes me out of the story being told, but I do think I want to follow up and read at least one of the books discussed in some level of detail here, Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens. I’m dithering about simply listening to one of the three different versions on LibriVox only because after learning about the techniques Dickens used I’m inclined to want to see them on the page this time. We’ll see. I could read it on Gutenburg too, seeing as we don’t currently have a physical copy, nor is there one available locally on BookMooch at the moment.

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