Sunday, June 7, 2009
Sometimes inspiration can come from the strangest places.
I work as a legal secretary. Earlier this week I was asked to type up a transcript of an "interrogation." I put that in quotes because even though it was referred to as an "interrogation," it was really more of a hearing in which our client, with his lawyer present, was questioned by a panel of bureaucrat-type people (the client works for the state) about a possible misdemeanor he may have committed while on the job and using state property. He hadn't been arrested and he wasn't in custody or anything. (Of course, for obvious reasons, I can't reveal much. We have confidentiality laws just like they do in healthcare.)
But anyway, as I was typing this I was struck by the rhythms, cadences, and word choice of the recorded voices. Most of the talking was done by the client, a blue-collar guy (likely no college), and one of the administrators, an apparently educated individual with a significant amount of authority. Though the subject matter was actually quite dull (it was really a very minor "crime"), I was fascinated by how the sentences flowed, how speakers stumbled and started over, and how the client would say stuff like "anywheres" and "I seen," while the lawyer and primary questioner's speech was very proper and correct. It reminded me of reading Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, which is composed entirely of two characters talking to one another and building on each other's opinions of what might have transpired years ago with regard to a particular tragic family. The convuluted, run-on sentences were annoying at first, until you considered that this is how people talk in real life when they're thinking out loud. Most dialogue we find in literature is really very stylized.
In 2666, for example, which I'm reading right now, there a couple of instances where a character goes on for several paragraphs about some abstract concept. Though he does try to mimick natural speech, Roberto Bolaño still uses very polished prose that few people could just come up with from the tops their heads. Which is fine, since 2666 is very much a work of art that isn't meant to conform 100% to the workings of the real world. But I think most fictional dialogue is "edited" to a certain extent, even in the really "low-brow" stuff, because reading a novel full of "uh" and "um" would probably get really annoying after a while.
I am still reading 2666, as well as Follow Me. And I know you've all been reading about nothing but 2666 and Follow Me. I'm usually a one-book-at-a-time girl, but since the 2666 challenge I'm participating in only demands one book a month (it's made up of five), and Follow Me can be tiresome (is Sally ever going to shape up?), I think I could certainly afford to start something else this week. Probably Herman Hesse's Demian - which I mentioned in my last Sunday Salon that I was going to start, but a week later and I still haven't. So I will.
I recently came across this post on the Book Lady's Blog, which asks a very simple task: “This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”
In no particular order, here are mine:
Dan Simmons - Hyperion
Dan Simmons - The Fall of Hyperion
Dan Simmons - The Terror
Victor Serge - Unforgiving Years
Jáchym Topol - City Sister Silver
Roberto Bolaño - 2666 (Yes, already!)
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Dalton Trumbo - Johnny Got His Gun
William Burroughs - Naked Lunch (Serious Content Warning)
Dean Koontz - The Taking
Masamune Shirow - Ghost in the Shell (graphic novel)
Anne Rice - Interview with the Vampire
Esther Tusquets - The Same Sea as Every Summer
Ferenc Karinthy - Metropole
Henry Miller - The Tropic of Cancer (Hated it - sticks with me in a bad way.)