"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Friday, June 15, 2007

American Novelists: Saving the Language?

Thought-provoking blog at the Guardian.
"American, as opposed to colonial English, prose is generally agreed to have really got going with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. ("You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter.")...

"What Twain did was to stop policing the boundaries between book language and the kind used by regular folks in day-to-day life. It was a decision that opened the door to the vigorous life and invention of vernacular and oral English. It has given American novels a cocky swagger that survives still: the energy of Philip Roth's prose, the sweet spin that George Saunders gives to his tales of McWorld, the tragic passions of Toni Morrison."

I'm all in favor of the playful evolution of language -- I remember what it was like to try to read de Beauvoir in the original French, e.g., -- but let's, just to play devil's advocate, also celebrate English novelists for their correct grammar. Somehow, it's easier to lose track of things like that on this side of the pond. Everything that somebody says doesn't make sense ;)

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