Andrey (azangru) wrote,
Andrey
azangru

After reading some columnist (was it Niall Ferguson? or someone in the Spectator? can't remember) praising C. J. Sansom’s detective stories about Matthew Shardlake, I tried to listen to the first novel. Despite really wanting to like the book, I couldn’t finish. Too slow, too boring. And probably because of the slow pace, I gradually found myself annoyed by the author’s technique. It’s a first-person narrative, but the author feels uncomfortable with it, and often as if observes his narrator from aside. They do a lot of looking, his characters; and the narrator diligently reports all that looking, including the one he does himself:

- I put down my napkin and looked at him seriously.
- I thought a moment. “Yes. Good point. But if he was bent over as he died the body would have been bent when it was found. Brother Guy will remember.” I looked at him enquiringly.
- I looked at him seriously. [looking at someone seriously is quite a fashion in the text]
- I looked at him curiously.
- I looked at him thoughtfully.
- I nodded in dismissal and he left. I looked after him thoughtfully.
- I looked at him keenly.
- I looked at them with distaste.
- I looked at him coldly.
- I looked at him seriously [yep, that’s at least the third time]

I wonder now, when people tell stories, how often do they report that they looked at someone, and, more to the point, how they did it (or that they frowned, or that something else happened to their facial expression)? It’s perfectly natural to observe all that in the other; but how natural is it to be holding a mental mirror to one’s own face? Was I just bored out of my wits to pick on something completely innocent and natural that I have not noticed before; or is it a sign of writer’s unpolished craft?
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