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February 04, 2009


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I think it might be something to do with being a hangover from the old 18th century daily gossip sheets like the Tatler, which censored all names and places in order to cover the arse of its writer. A lot of newssheet writers became novelists, but why they kept this particular trait I've no idea.

I like the image on this post.

I have read that the Victorian age was highly litigeous, so it was neccessary to avoid any confusion between real people and fictional characters. See also the outrageous names which Dickens and other authors used - it wasn't just for comic effect, it warded off law suits too.

I hate the use of hyphens instead of speech marks e.g.

- Oh Vera, that's a lovely hat you have on
- That's no hat, that's my fruit bowl

And at the risk of sounding like I'm a hating kind of a person, I'm afraid I also hate the image on this post.

My pet book hate is the obsession with possessive titles that started, perhaps, with Flaubert's Parrot, but really gathered momentum after Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

It now feels as if every other historical biography has to have a possessive title:

Fermat's Last Theorem
Nathaniel's Nutmeg
Captain Bligh's Portable Nightmare
Nella's Last Peace
Kitchener's Last Volunteer
Rutka's Notebook
Darwin's Dangerous Ideaetc

and also novels like:

Lempriere's Dictionary
Hemmingway's Chair
Edward Trencom's Nose

The list goes on.

I get really irritated when any book deliberately fails to name the main character. It smacks of smart-arsery and becomes especially silly when any dialogue with or about the character becomes forced by following the pattern of not naming her. Check out Elizabeth Kostova's vastly overrated The Historian as a prime example

It's more of a production niggle - but I don't like it when very short books are printed with huge typeface to make them fill more pages. A short book is a short book, be proud of it and let it look slender on the shelf.

I've just thought of another one - introductions in classics that tell you how the novel ends. I remember dutifully reading the foreword to the Penguin Classics edition of 'Jude the Obscure' only to discover what happened to Jude. Thanks a million. Some of us still like to be surprised by the ending (although in Hardy's case, you don't need to be Mystic Meg to predict the outcome).

And I quite agree about foreign language quotes. Those of us who didn't have the benefit of a private education are not automatically proficient in several European languages and it really annoys me when some ponce starts quoting in French without including a translation.

Still, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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