Friday, April 9, 2010

In Interest of Ignorance

I'm not a big fan of general ignorance. It leads to idiocy (often political)... but when there is a surprise to be had... I don't wanna know. I LOVE surprises... and what's MORE, I know myself well enough to know that nine times out of ten, I enjoy the anticipation of the surprise better than the surprise itself. (yeah, okay—THAT is probably just me—I can be a little tricky to satisfy).

When I was little I once peeked in the closet where the Christmas presents were hidden. I didn't know then what it would do. It RUINED Christmas, and I didn't even dare confess, as it was my own darned fault. Since that time, I ACTIVELY try to avoid learning. If I hear whispers, I go away. If someone says guess what I got you, I say, “I don't want to know.” My college boyfriend used to get upset that I wouldn't engage in the 'come on, please tell me' game... (I did once, because I knew he loved that game, but then the idiot TOLD me! IRKSOME!)

Over time, I've learned this makes me a little freaky. I don't know if some people just can't stand not knowing? It confuses me. I mean it's not like life's OTHER up-in-the-air ambiguities (I HATE those and almost care more about having things SET than having them go the way I WANT). But a surprise, by definition, is nice. You are getting something, and chances are, it won't be a sharp stick in the eye. What's the rush? Why on earth is it so important to know whether you are getting a sweater or a necklace?

NOT anticipating also keeps me from being disappointed if I sort of hope it's something REALLY special, then it's not. Being out of the habit lets me just always enjoy it... well, unless it's something I don't like.


On Books

I know some people who open a book and read the last page. This is a species of being to which I obviously not only don't belong, but will never understand. Are there any of you freaks out there? What is the appeal of this? Why the heck would you want to already know the ending? What pulls you through a book, if not the quest to find out?

Oh, there are a few books I've read more than one (but not many)--they really have to be carefully put together for me to REALLY enjoy them multiple times—at least for reads that are temporally close. On THIS, I know there are many who feel differently—they are probably people who read faster than me... my own reading list is just too long and there is not enough time, so the only books that make it with some regularly, are the Harry Potter books, and that is because I always notice some little cleverness I missed on the last 7 rounds.


Imaginary and Irksome Idiom

Several years ago, when I was desperately trying to convince my then 5th grade daughter that it was still cool to read with mom, I took a recommendation from a book store for 'His Dark Materials'. And the story is really pretty great, I love it, but MAN, was that hard to read out loud! Lyra talks like a freak! I know it was in an attempt to show that her world had some subtle differences from ours (the freak talk and the personal demons, primarily), and I suppose as a technique for that, it worked pretty well, but I think Pullman overshot.

Alternately, in 'The Clockwork Orange', where the punks use their cutsie little rhyming whyming technique while they beat up old people, you are drawn into a world that is just too horrible to imagine. The idiom increases the horror of it, because it illustrates that to these guys, this is all just play.

Idiom can be illustrative of real world differences too. Done well, it can make dialog illuminate race, poverty, region, nationality. But it is such a tricky thing to do adequately to get the point across, without making the language too hard to follow. I love the book Huckleberry Finn, but the first time I read it, at sixteen, following Jim's speech patterns was very difficult. Had it not been for my divine English teacher, Sylvia James, I might not have had the patience (she helped me with Shakespeare too—for whom language wasn't so much idiom, as old and poetic, and so unfamiliar to my sixteen year old ears)

I am in process on a trilogy which has half a dozen Romanian characters in addition to my American ones. Some of them have been in America for a long time, so I have just thrown in a word now and again, but a few are just here for the first time (or speaking English THERE to characters who go there). It is a tricky thing and I have no clue if I am drawing the line right on how much to tweak language. I want to get it across, without being cumbersome. (Never mind the cases where the characters are actually speaking Romanian to each other but I am putting it in English, because I want people to be able to read the darned books).

I have two friends I will ask to be first readers, one who lived in Romania, another who is Romanian but lives in the states. I hope that will be adequate, but I would love to hear what any of you have done to deal with tricksey idiom...



Impressive... erm... okay, just impressive...

Dibs on the one on the left.

Yeah, I definitely gotta get me one o' those...

29 comments:

WELCOME TO MY WORLD OF POETRY: said...

A most enjoyable post to read plus the photo's good as always.

Have a lovely week-end.
Yvonne.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Clockwork Orange. Oh yeah I should watch that again sometime soon. Hey! You're one day ahead! Is that on purpose?

Jan Morrison said...

oh tartlett - we read the Golden Compass aloud just when the kids were deciding no more of that childish thing. It worked a treat - I love those books! Better than 'he who shall not be named' even. Oh oh, I just felt you withdrawing your affection from me. Ah well - I must be true! One time when my step-son was home with a bit of flu I read to him the futuristic part of Cloud Atlas - it was so fun and weird. I think you'd like it too. I miss hearing my sweet patootie reading aloud to the kids - I want to go back to those days instead of these ones where they have stuff stuck in their ears and their fingers on tiny key pads all the time. sigh.

Watery Tart said...

Yvonne, thank you! Great weekend to you, too!

AA: Yes... I'm ahead. I have 4 guest bloggers this month and didn't want THEM to worry about the alphabet, so I decided I would include Sundays that their visit days would be my 'no letter' days...

Jan--no affection withdrawn! I will be loyal to Harry, but have never been a stickler for making my friends think like me (I even have friends who liked Twilight *shivers*)

I miss reading with my kids, but that is now writing time, so it was a trade off that had a lot of benefit, too. Ah yes... but the iPods and the texting... Ack! Hard to get them to read at all!

Sugar said...

I've never read the last page of a book. I love to be surprised. It took hubby 13 years to figure that one out!
Um-can I have the one next to yours?

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

It gets hard to do read-aloud books, doesn't it? I've taken to making things up for them at bedtime. Interesting doing that...when they start to look bored, I up the conflict level in the story. Instant response to the audience! :)

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Kierah Jane Reilly said...

Okay, you keep doing this to me. I had clever things to say about idiots and idioms, but after seeing those guys, I can't remember. Except, I think we have the same taste in guys. Rock paper scissors for the guy on the left?

Watery Tart said...

Sugar, hubbies can be a clueless lot, can't they? Mine still doesn't get that I'd like to be the center of a month-long fiesta every year.

Elizabeth-I wonder if I'd like making up stories now... my daughter nearly DEMANDED made up stories (so she could be the star, the narcissist--never mind that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree) but at the time I SO STRONGLY preferred just reading... (and I love YA books) but some of them could be trying...

Kierah *giggles* yeah, erm... sorry about that *snort* (not really)-- yeah, the guy on the left, I think I pefer for the hair... I like scruffy, a little longish... normally my taste runs a little skinny compared to most women, but that reckless thing trumps it.

Helen Ginger said...

As an editor, I often have to tell my clients to quit telling us the ending of a scene before we've read the scene. It's like the writer wants to summarize then show (or worse, summarize then tell). Stop it! Let us find out what happens as it happens.

Okay, I didn't know there would be a smorgasbord and I'd have to choose. Can't really see the two in back, but I'd take any of the three in front.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Kierah Jane Reilly said...

it's definitely the hair :)

Caledonia Lass said...

You know, I love your posts. We think alike in the book area. Obviously in the men area too. XD

Great post! Have a fun weekend.

hampshireflyer said...

Hmm, English as a second language characters... whenever I can I try to create a background for them which means that I either have some knowledge of their first language or have some knowledge *about* it. I don't feel comfortable taking risks with their idiom unless I know what I'm playing with to some extent... otherwise I tend to restrict the variation to vocab choices rather than getting into grammar or syntax.

Serendipitiously, using a Slavonic-first-language character as a first-person narrator can really help to keep your word count down :P

B. Miller said...

I'm the same way about Christmas presents. CAN'T KNOW what they are - found out at age 8 that looking for Christmas presents and finding them takes the fun out of unwrapping them!!

Great post! Thanks for sharing, and have a wonderful weekend, Hart.

Watery Tart said...

Helen, are you being greedy and claiming three? *raises eyebrows* (teasing). You know... I hadn't thought about that advantage of editing... all the stuff you see... people doing things right and wrong. Most of us only see stuff mostly right, but I think you can learn A LOT from wrong...

Kierah *winks* EXACTLY.

Alex-I think I actually have a HARDER time with the other language I know (Spanish) because I know some of the quirks, but not how most of them are regional or something, so I am more apt to MIS-use... It would definitely be an advantage to REALLY know multiple cultures, including the languages, but I am so attached to my story, I want to fly with it ANYWAY. (I chose Romanian as my 'behind the wall' because of my friend connections, and also a museum on the Columbia river that fit really well when I started considering matters (the Mary Hill Museum in Mary Hill (which is pretty much nowhere), Washington.

B. Sounds like we had an almost identical experience! Great weekend to you, too!

Watery Tart said...

Ack! I missed you CL! Sorry! Overscrolled! Fun to find like minds, eh?

hampshireflyer said...

Oh - is it something to do with Queen Marie? Intrigued now :)

Watery Tart said...

Alex, it's more contemporary (well, the 80s). I've got three families, all with Romanian ties (two lineage, the 3rd, strictly because of his Poli-sci degree)--their lives overlap because of being on the varying sides of an art smuggling/solving situation, but the board of the Mary Hill (partially based in Portland) is involved.

Do you know the Mary Hill? I grew up in Moscow and lived for ages in Portland, so I passed it several times a year (have only been there a couple times)

The timing is largely because I needed the iron wall still in place, and because that is when my friend lived in Romania (half the second and much of the 3rd book occur there)

Lisa said...

Ignorance is indeed bliss, IMHO. :)

Ellie said...

Very clever; I also spoiled Christmas one year, it ruins the moment!
I agree some books are hard to read, the names the places, wish it rolled off my tongue.

Lady Jayne said...

I used to have this crazy job where we'd have to work the nightshift - sitting in our cars in ditches on the side of the highway, counting cars as they went by. We used to bring flashlights and take turns reading to each other to help pass the time.

I really enjoyed it - both the reading and the listening - plus we got paid for it.

;)

tooleftfeeet said...

i'll bet you waited until your kid(s') birthday(s) to find out what the sex was, eh? i see the validity in holding off revelation of surprises, but that was one thing, i STILL had to know. God bless you for being able to wait...

PS, i cannot read the last page of the book before reading the beginning or the middle...that's just WRONG.

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Kassy with a K said...

i call the one with tattoos!!

i used to if a book i was reading made me really anxious for the character or something i'd flip ahead a few pages, but i think i've broken the habit now. and i never everrrr go to the end. in real life though, i hate surprises. i don't like NOT knowing. i think it goes along with the whole needing control thing--something i'm realizing more and more each day that i definitely have a problem with.

Watery Tart said...

Yes, Lisa... ignorance IS bliss... (at least until reality comes crashing down...)
Ellie, seems there are a fair few of us who learn this the hard way!
Lady Jayne-for a minute I thought that job sounded AWFUl, until I heard you got to take turns reading, then I got jealous!
Tooleftfeet-I waited on child 1, but child 2 was to be the last, so practical me won (do we get RID of the pink stuff, or not?)
evision-glad to be helpful! (possibly with things you didn't know you wanted to know *snicke*) I try...
Kas--a tattoo fetish, eh... or do you just like that he has the best six pack (he does... I just can't get past the crew cut... er... even though my husband periodically gets one) Funny though, that you don't like ANY surprises...

Marjorie said...

Tam, I don't understand the people who read the last page first either. Who DOES that? Seriously.

ggray said...

Like you, I'm one of those few people who like surprises too. My family wants me to keep guessng gifts and I don't want to. I won't even shake a package delivered early. And I'm the same way with writing. I never sneak ahead and would be appalled to read the last page. Even in my writer's group I make Brian K. Ladd and B. Miller hush up when they're tempted to talk about their next plot development. I want to read it without any foreknowledge dimming the surprise.

TreeX said...

Tamster, just to make sure you don't screw this up throughout the book: the term is Iron CURTAIN; the Berlin Wall was The wall ("die Mauer", WITH capital) ;)

Melody said...

* Raising hand* I've read the last page of a book before... but generally it was a book I was struggling to get through and wanted to see if it was worth it to slog through the rest (it usually wasn't). Typically... I just read straight through. I reread books but have to wait until I've forgotten the details to do so. I'm re-reading Harry Potter series right now for the first time since I knew the ending and loving finding lots of tidbits and seeing how the series and our knowledge progressed. And I haven't read The Clockwork Orange, though I probably should add to my list to books-to-read.

Watery Tart said...

Marjorie, it IS a certain kind of person, isn't it?

GGray, welcome! Me too--don't even SHAKE them! Prefer not to carry them because I don't want to know what they weigh! Boss gave me a laptop a few years ago, and I guessed... i was THRILLED but would have liked it as a surprise better.

Joris, I'm not USING the term at all... it just has to 'be' if you knowwhatImean...

Melody-I actually haven't read all of them since then and would be THRILLED to! I've read the first 6 though, a good dozen times anticipating (the last only 4, I think, alone and with each kid and then alone again).

Clockwork Orange isn't ENJOYABLE, but is IMPORTANT... like the Jungle or Farenheit 451.