I’m reading Edith Wharton instead. Help me.
I’m going to talk about Catullus now, even though he is a good writer. We read a poem by Catullus today in Latin about a joke played by one of Catullus’s friends, wherein the friend sends Catullus a book of the worst poems he can find. The name “Sulla Litterator” appears in one line of the poem, and the notes in the back insist that this is a real person, but I am dead certain it is an invention. You see, at the time that the poem was written, the Dictator Sulla had recently been responsible for the murders of an unprecedented number of Roman citizens. Catullus is obviously comparing the poems collected in the book to this time of upheaval and violence.
Now this may sound crazy, but I’m starting to think that maybe Edith Wharton was a time-traveller. Either that, or she never had a conversation with an actual human being before, which I suppose is more likely but significantly less entertaining. Just think of that poor, lonely woman–nah, I’d rather imagine her travelling through time. But not to the present day. Goodness no.
I’m now imagining this woman travelling through time, looking at dinosaurs, trying to talk to people from different eras but giving instead long monologues that no one listens to. You just need to finish one sentence, Edith. Just one! But no one will wait until you’re done.
I’m also sort of wondering exactly how many words you could fit into just one sentence without changing the subject. What kind of rules would a game like that have, anyway? How much redundancy is allowed? How long before players just start repeating the same word over and over?
Not that Edit Wharton is above such a thing. Some form of the verb to seem occurs in The House of Mirth more than 100 times. I’m not going to charge her–yet–with having things “seem” to be exactly what they are, but I’m still mired in chapter four. There is also a lot of intrusive and unnecessary French (although to be fair, Kate Chopin uses a lot of French in The Awakening, but she at least had the decency to set her story in Louisiana where some people actually speak French).
It’s also a great example of the dangers of character-driven fiction. I know from experience that there are people who believe that the highest compliment a work of fiction can receive is that it is character-driven. Well, that’s alright as far as it goes, but it really depends on the kind of characters you write. I don’t like the main character. I don’t relate to her. I don’t hate her either. I just plain don’t care. Maybe if I had the chance to get to know her, I’d have some sort of emotional reaction, but I’m still trying to get to the end of these sentences. It’s such a long way to go. They say the journey is better than the destination–hah! Sure.
Maybe if I translate it into Latin or German that will hold my attention.