Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Creative Quote Usage

So, I've been studying Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse, and I noticed that in several places Woolf was unpredictable in her use of quotation marks. In this passage, for instance, she sets off some parts of dialog with quotes but not others. I'm a bit at a loss for why she made the choices she did. Can anyone figure it out?

The scene first takes place between Mrs. Ramsay and her husband Mr. Ramsay. Their son James comes in next, and near the end they refer to a house guest named Charles Tansley:

(excerpt)
Not for the world would she (Mrs. Ramsay) have spoken to him (Mr. Ramsay), realising, from the familiar signs, his eyes averted, and some curious gathering together of his person, as if he wrapped himself about and needed privacy into which to regain his equilibrium, that he was outraged and anguished. She stroked Jame's head; she transferred to him what she felt for her husband, and, as she watched him chalk yellow the white dress shirt of a gentleman in the Army and Navy Stores catalogue, thought what a delight it would be to her should he turn out a great artist; and why should he not? He had a splendid forehead. Then, looking up, as her husband passed her once more, she was relieved to find that the ruin was veiled; domesticity triumphed; custom crooned its soothing rhythm, so that when stopping deliberately, as his turn came round again, at the window he bent quizzically and whimsically to tickle Jame's bare calf with a sprig of something, she twitted him for having dispatched "that poor young man," Charles Tansley. Tansley had had to go in and write his dissertation, he said.

"James will have to write his dissertation one of these days," he added ironically, flicking his sprig.

Hating his father, James brushed away the tickling spray with which in a manner peculiar to him, compound of severity and humour, he teased his youngest son's bare leg.

She was trying to get these tiresome stockings finished to send to Sorley's little boy tomorrow, said Mrs. Ramsay.

There wasn't the slightest possible chance that they could go to the Lighthouse tomorrow, Mr. Ransay snapped out irascibly.
___


What do you think? Does Woolf's use of quotes in this passage make it stronger?

75 comments:

  1. Maybe she just didn't have a good editor.

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  2. Ha ha! Well, I think her husband was her editor, so you better be careful who you say that to.

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  3. Woolf has omitted quotation marks where the narrator is reporting speech, e.g. They were going to be late, he said. Where the character is directly speaking, she uses quotation marks: "We are going to be late," he said.

    This is one of those instances where a modern editor would almost certainly correct the author, and possibly be wrong. On the one hand it's good to have consistency in a book and make it easier for the reader to read the passage without having to go back and work out what's going on. On the other hand, varying the POV like this is interesting and shocks the reader out of her complacency about the scene.

    So what's "good" editing? Sometimes a writer can and should be allowed to break the rules. The more old books you read, the more you'll find examples like this.

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  4. Jane,
    So, are you saying it's for variety's sake? "shocks the reader out of her complacency" I tend to draw the same conclusion, and then I guess I wonder how Woolf decided where to do this, and I also wonder if variety for variety's sake is legit. Does it just become decorative at some point?

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  5. Domey, it's a long time since I studied To The Lighthouse (I loved it!) but from what I remember VW was playing a lot with perceptions - how things happend from the different perceptions of her characters.

    So I would suggest that the two lines of dialogue WITHOUT quotation marks (...said Mrs Ramsey and ... said Mr Ramsey) were their son James' PERCEPTION of them speaking (i.e. it was his internal perception of them speaking dialogue, rather than the outer action of them actually speaking). does that make sense?

    Judy

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  6. Thanks a lot for your thoughtful comment, by the way.

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  7. Judy, that also makes sense. I do feel like this is a possibility, and I try to read the book that way. Sometimes I feel like it is correct. Other times I feel like, even if it is a matter of perception, there is some randomness built into it--which I guess is also true to Woolf's intentions. I try to pay attention to myself in conversation, if I alternate between distancing myself from dialog versus hearing it more closely. Perhaps that's what she was trying to do.

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  8. Maybe the randomness of it is because she really was one of the early pioneers of "stream-of-consciousness" writing. To later authors, and to us, we may be more structured in how we use or read this method, because we have decades of the stream-of-consciousness genre conventions to fall back on. But VW was inventing something entirely new/original, and I would imagine that her randomness was perhaps merely part of the creative process of a genius in action?
    Judy

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  9. Was Woolf still writing in an era when people read books aloud? A lot of 19c literature has this same use of quotes going on. Woolf may have been using this old technique. When a book is read aloud, it makes more sense to "tell" in narration what people were saying to each other, as if you were reporting a conversation verbally to a friend. Quotes are thrown in where the phrase IS a direct quote by the person (as Jane explained).

    I can imagine that while reading aloud, the reader might jump into doing a character voice for the text in quotes and otherwise speak naturally. It would be exhausting and unnatural to recount in speech, word for word, a verbatim quote that's a paragraph long.

    I think that in Woolf's case, it's either a reference to the days of reading-aloud or a continuance of it.

    It does look weird, though, to those of us used to reading books that are intended to be read easily silently, to oneself, and not as much to be listened to.

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  10. "That poor young man" in quotes makes sense to me for a number of reasons. For one, I can hear the woman's tone of voice saying that phrase. Also, it makes sense to emphasize that that bit of editorial about Charles Tansley belongs solely to the voice of Mrs. Ramsay and not the narrator.

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  11. Judy, I'm willing to buy your last point! She was being truly original. She is one of the greats to me, right up there with Tolstoy and well above other classic writers.

    Jeannie, I don't know if that was her intention of not. That's interesting though. I guess I don't know enough about her life to know how she shared her work. I agree with you about your second post, that line in quotes does make a lot of sense to me. It captures the personality.

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  12. Jane is right, but I don't think Woolf was doing it for variety's sake. I think she was controlling the narrative distance and emphasizing the moment where the father comments about the son. Why? Virginia must've felt this moment was important enough to draw our attention to it directly, to slow down time a bit and focus.

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  13. Perhaps it was in lieu of italics? Times have changed.

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  14. Uh, er, have I missed something Domey? I've been vacationing, white water rafting, and I noticed a slight name change with you. Maybe I hit my head?? :)

    I agree with Judy. (I always agree with her, she's SO in the KNOW.) :)But I do think it was their son's slant of them speaking. Not them actually talking. I do know after reading it, I feel odd. Was it the way she told the story? I love reading it, don't get me wrong. This is probably just me. Maybe I'm odd? hehe

    It has been a long, long time since I have read To The Lighthouse. So does that make me old? YIKES!

    So Domey, "What's up with the name thang?" ^_^

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  15. Scott, I really like that idea of varying the distance. I wish I used that technique more in my writing. I feel like I'd be able to, but then I wouldn't be able to decide which parts should be close versus which parts should be distant.

    T. Anne, I don't think it's the italics. But maybe I'm wrong. If they were more of her thoughts, perhaps.

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  16. Robyn, You're not odd or old. :) Thanks for your thoughts. A few people have mentioned that it's the son's point of view. I don't see that myself, but maybe that's the case.

    As for the name, I've just decided I need to start using a pen name as I will be looking for jobs in science soon. I'm splitting my identities!

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  17. Scott, I liked your take on VW's technique. These were definitely technical decisions taken for very specific artistic reasons, and the fact that we're arguing about what those reasons were shows how interesting her writing is.

    I wish I knew more about the editing of Woolf's works. Did she work with Leonard because he was the only one who understood her? Did she have trouble with editors who didn't grasp what she was doing?

    One of the bees in my bonnet is the cookie-cutter nature of so much contemporary writing, imposed by rules like "you must be consistent with your POV" and "avoid backstory dumps". Sometimes deviating from the rules works. Sometimes it doesn't. But we need publishers who are not afraid to take that risk.

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  18. I also think that, going on this passage alone, it seems like Woolf wanted to emphasize, '"James will have to write his dissertation one of these days," he added ironically, flicking his sprig.' That being set off inside its own paragraph also lends credence to this, especially when the unquoted bit from the same person appeared at the end of a long paragraph. This seems a deft smooth segue to highlight the quoted dialogue.

    In my own writing I often mix this up: sometimes I'll use quotes about thoughts and spoken comments, sometimes I'll use italics, sometimes I'll use neither. It depends on how intrusive I want/don't want that part to seem, as flow is extremely important to me.

    But I've never read To The Lighthouse so don't have this excerpt's context. I think looking at the rest of the book and seeing if you can identify writing patterns for specific content-types helps in recognizing authorial intentions. But who really knows? None of us are in Woolf's head.

    Going on later confirmation in the past, I'm pretty good at judging authorial intention (my editing background may be largely responsible, and, yes, I sound like a pompous ass here, but what can I say except this ability seems true for me?). But it's still difficult for me to do. One thing that helps is closely looking at a work's beginning: IMO, writers typically reveal their overall intentions from Page One.

    But that intentions can sometimes be subconscious is where this gets confusing (and contradictory). I've talked a lot about intentions versus executions, but I should emphasize more that I think the subconscious is sometimes forcing its own thing, has its own desires, and the conscious writer's mind doesn't always recognize this. Writing can be a battle between these parts of the mind (and other parts...), and then it's like writing with two separate brains. Which one usually wins if any win? That is the question.

    It could be Woolf (or any writer) subconsciously intended certain parts and consciously intended others.

    It's like when a person suddenly consciously realizes she's "in love" with someone else when she'd been in love with that person longer than that--and her subconscious had revealed this in her behavior all along. Her conscious mind just hadn't recognized the being-in-love state all along.

    I've written certain things without conscious intent and then later on--sometimes years later--realized that they'd been desires AND "facts" about my life or about someone else I'd recognized only in my subconscious mind. I've confirmed this with other things I'd written and/or said or done in person that I'd forgotten had been recorded somewhere.

    Sometimes I think writing is just a lot of self-psychoanalysis--"talking" on the page while wearing pajamas, rather than talking in an office somewhere while lying on a couch.

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  19. Jane: "you must be consistent with your POV" is total rubbish, mostly because nobody really does it. If you listen to a good oral storyteller, POV and tense shift all the time. I'm reading Nadine Gordimer now, and things are in constant flux but it's easy to follow. I have a WIP wherein POV goes from an emotionally distant 3rd-person omniscient to a very close 1st-person, and I chose all of those POV shifts deliberately with specific intentions in mind.

    I have a feeling that VW was probably difficult to edit because she probably didn't enjoy being edited. I hear that Cormac McCarthy hates the editorial process, and with his prose I can imagine why. He's likely always saying, "No, you just don't get what I'm doing here" to his editor.

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  20. It appears that she's playing with reportage here. She's telling the dialogue in the non-quotation marked instances, and showing the dialogue with quotation marks. For example, Mr. Ramsay, in telling about Tansley having to write his dissertation, would have said, "Tansley had to go in and write his dissertation." By removing the quotes and adding the extra "had," Woolf turns it into a (very close) paraphrase of what Ramsey said.

    Same thing with Mrs. R's dialogue. She would say, "I'm trying to (etc.)," not "She was trying to (etc.)."

    Not sure why the direct quotation was made, but there's likely a meaning. Perhaps it's that Ramsey's immediate interaction with his children is suffused with selfishness, and this shows that. He can't let his son be a boy and color, but must, in his mind, create future successes for himself through his progeny. It's a loaded interaction, and illuminates character, whereas the rest of the dialogue (without quotes) is less illuminating.

    Hm. That was serious. How odd. I should say something silly to offset that, but I don't think I can be bothered....
    Cheers!

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  21. Since all too often when I'm not running doing the character of Hamlet the man, I'm afraid it seems like I disagree with the Just-Shy-of-Brilliant Mr. Bailey, I will publicly throw my lot in with him on this one.

    It's a technique that I've used some myself to control and regulate intimacy and distance, as well as pacing.

    That said, I usually hate it when I do it, find it jarring when other people do it, and explicitly remember finding it frustrating in Woolf.

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  22. Yes to some of what Simon said: I first thought the unquoted "dialogue" could read as unreliable. It doesn't always in anyone's writings in general, but it feels like that's possible in this Woolf excerpt.

    The only thing: the extra "had" for past-perfect tense could have been spoken by Mr. Ramsay as just that--it isn't clear from the passage. Some people do use past-perfect while speaking; this was more common years ago. And the reader of this section alone has no idea what was specifically spoken by the characters before that line, has no idea of the tensing then, especially w.r.t. when Tansley had actually done his dissertation.

    That (IMO at least) Woolf's writing often isn't clear is why I've never read much of it. At some point I think people must ask if readers can read so many contradictory things into even tiny bits of a work, was the author all-over-the-place out of control on the page? If confusing people and making them disagree was the author's intent, then that's okay and the author's succeeded in executing her/his intent. Sometimes it seems like these things might have been Woolf's intentions.

    But I still don't enjoy having to pick apart every other sentence to see where I'm at in a narrative. The author's supposed to be the director of the written work, not the reader. This isn't a POV issue for me, but an issue of effectively directing the story's traffic flow. I've read stories with multiple POVs that were very clear reads. I think a few parts here and there that demand closer inspection--this is good. It forces readers to sloooow down and think. But nonstop slowing and stopping is too much.

    I've tried reading Woolf's texts repeatedly; I'll keep trying and maybe I'll get through a whole one at some point. Some writers' works require multiple tries; I'll usually give each writer at least two or three, a few (like Woolf) will get four or more. I did really like a film production of Mrs. Dalloway, but when I went to read the book afterward, I was disappointed. Almost always, the opposite's the case and the movie disappoints me!

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  23. Ah, splitting identities. Now I get it. I'm glad to know I didn't hit my head. :) Love the name, btw. It's so YOU. :)

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  24. Seriously, though, this style of writing dialogue is old and used to be commonplace. George Eliot, Jane Austen, and the Bronte sisters, to name a few, used it all the time. It was the norm, not an unusual artistic choice. I don't know enough about Virginia Woolf's contemporaries to know if it was really strange of her to use it in her time. But I doubt that she wasn't familiar with this practice of mixing direct quotes in short phrases within expostulated conversations. In my opinion, it works very smoothly with her stream-of-consciousness style of writing.

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  25. I should say that I'm inclined to defend Woolf's usage, since I pink fuzzy heart her writing and find her prose delightful. I understand that it's dense and difficult at times, but when she chooses to set aside the circumlocutions and the swirling POV usage, her sentences can hit like sledgehammers.

    One thing's for sure, she wielded punctuation like a professional.

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  26. Genie, I think that given that Woolf was not the usual artist, some people here are saying or implying that she did this stuff deliberately--or that it is part of the way her mind worked. Just because something is common in a writing time doesn't necessarily mean everyone using that something is using it for the same reasons. I think she probably was influenced by the time's conventions, but I'm inclined to agree with the idea that Woolf also had her specific reasons.

    At the same time, I wonder if she just didn't control her texts enough. I feel this same way about Joyce with Ulysses, for example.

    Jean Rhys's Good Morning, Midnight is surreal and stream-of-consciousness, and she plays with the reader's experience of the story's timeline--and the readers' perception of time. But I am rarely lost when reading that book; her ideas there have clarity. I cannot say the same for Joyce's and Woolf's writings in general (not counting The Dubliners).

    This may be a personal preference issue in large part--I don't know.

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  27. When I said this above, "That (IMO at least) Woolf's writing often isn't clear is why I've never read much of it"--I should have said is why I've never FINISHED much of it. I've tried reading it, repeatedly. Multiple works. I've been unable to finish any of them. I'll keep trying....

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  28. Yes, I am sure she did it deliberately, but it's a question of why she would choose a sort of old-fashioned dialogue style, rather than a question of why she came up with the style. She would have been familiar with it, is all I'm saying. It's not as though she invented it.

    I only point this out because often, we make guesses about what an artist meant to do without taking into consideration their direct influences. An element of writing that means something to us might have meant something a little different to the author based on her context and education.

    We can't know for sure what she was thinking, of course, but I sense an intense deliberateness in Woolf's writing. It might be hard to understand or follow, but that in itself seems deliberate with her interest in the fragmented nature of life. Woolf can be a tough author to read, but I don't sense that she was sloppy.

    The more I read this passage and others like it, the more I feel she chose that way of presenting dialogue because it flowed perfectly with her stream of consciousness and her fascination with the fragmented.

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  29. Oy and argh--is why I've never finished ANY of it. Not a good posting day for me, it seems. I'll stop now before it gets even worse! lol

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  30. Mary campbell took my first thought!

    No clue though, but I enjoyed he discussion. Like sitting in literature class.

    Side note: I read your profiles a few days ago and wondered if someone misspelled your name. The I read your explanation post and went "Oh, ok."

    Hope the plan works out Domey :) And congrats on nearing the end of your Doctorate. What a huge life committment that has been.

    .......dhole

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  31. One last thing (should I dare?) and then I really need to, um, get dressed for the day!

    Genie, next time I try reading her work, I'll keep people's comments about it in mind because maybe I've not been reading it the "correct" way for her writing voice. I'm just a bit of a hardass when it comes to communicating, which writing basically is to me. I see a tendency in the arts on both artist parts and the experiencer's-of-the-arts parts to let vagueness and lack of clarity be an excuse for someone's putting any old thing inside an artwork. Like, the creator just inserts stuff willy-nilly and then the creator and her fans claim it's just the creator's genius when sometimes it's the creator's sloppiness and inability to create a well-structured well-directed artwork that is CLEAR.

    Van Gogh and Jackson Pollock have been criticized--even BY ME years ago--for being sloppy and not knowing how to make a "proper" representational image. That's not true. Both artists had paid some realism dues years before they created their own styles. In recent years I've realized that abstract art by choice is different from abstract art by inability--the latter is often the problem, not the former; the latter often creates bad abstract art, not the former. Doing realism helps train the eye to see more accurately, to see better. And eyes are (usually) still needed for making abstract art.

    In that whole idea, insert stream-of-consciousness into abstract art.

    As I think I've explained, I've not read enough of Woolf's work to say if she was intentionally confusing or out of control; I just get this out-of-control feeling sometimes whenever I see her sentences. Then other times her work seems intentionally written this way--because she meant to confuse others, because she herself was confused and/or was trying to express the mental-confusion state on the page? I don't know.

    Like I said, I think others are correct and, with her, it's more that she knew what she was doing and made the choice to write the way she did. At the same time, I don't like possibly making excuses for sloppy writing, so until I've read more of her work and am sure of my opinion there...I will say no more about it. I really only wanted to think about and comment on the excerpt Domey posted because I think this is a good writer's brain exercise. But I was up till 5:00 AM (!) working on my own book and have mental exhaustion--I probably shouldn't have posted all this here today!

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  32. Forgot to add that I used to HATE both van Gogh's and Pollock's art, and now I love both. Who knows? Maybe someday I'll love Woolf's too. Sometimes a person's timing's off with certain art, and the person must experience another artist's work at a specific time in her life before she can appreciate it.

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  33. FP, nice to see you around! Your comment reminded me of a man who was in one of the writing groups I used to participate in. He was writing a memoir about his life and how he was supposed to be this major charmer of women, but most of the other writers in the group found his behavior to be anything but charming. He wasn't able to hide the uncharming part of himself, and he wasn't even able to see it.

    Simon, I'm still waiting for the joke. Maybe something about drinking? Seriously, great comment. As I read I get all of the information about the characters, and maybe I wouldn't have if Woolf had chosen to write this in any other way.

    Nevets, I'd be curious to read your rendition of this technique! And Scott likes it when people disagree with him. It gives him a chance to use words like rubbish.

    FP, That's an interesting point about clarity. Woolf is hard to understand for me in two ways. First, she does rapidly switch from one character's inner thoughts to another. It really slows me down, but I do find that about 90% of the time I'm able to figure it out. The second way she's unclear is that I think she chooses very interesting words to convey emotions and sensibility. I can see this not connecting with everyone. I personally feel like I connect with her words, but I think that is an individual case. Updike is the same way for me. His descriptions connect with me on a really deep level, but I think that is due to our similar sensibility. I love Woolf. At the same time, I can easily see why some readers wouldn't connect with her.

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  34. Jeannie, I also think Woolf was very deliberate, even though I don't understand every decision she makes. I wish I was better at taking into the writer's time and place, but I hated history as a youngster and sadly I missed out on a lot of really important stuff.

    Donna, thanks for understanding the name change. The doctorate was actually finished a few years ago, and I've been floating in limbo ever since. I'm trying to get out of limbo!

    FP, I actually see similarities in writing between your work and Woolf. LOL, that may be a compliment or an insult to you!

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  35. So Dr. D: Can *we* still call you Davin, or should we get into the habit of using your nom de plume? :)

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  36. Genie: I call him "Big D." He really wants us to call him "Big Daddy" but I can only go so far towards accommodating him.

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  37. Jeannie,
    You and everyone can call me whatever you like. I'm just going to be publishing under Domey from now on. Plenty of people still call me Davin, and I'd be sad if they didn't.

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  38. I would argue with Scott if he wasn't telling the truth.

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  39. Is there a real discussion in here somewhere????

    Davin, you are still Davin in my head. One day, maybe if I see Domey Malasarn on a published novel on my shelf, I might start to think of you as Domey. :)

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  40. Nevets, Why do you know so much Thai?
    Or were you talking about the other kind of pee?

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  41. Michelle, my goal is to have you be completely confused as to what you should call me. :)

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  42. As long as I know you're talking to me I will probably answer. Unless I'm on stage. Then I'll still probably answer. Unless I'm in a big zebra costume. Then I'll probably just make a clicking noise and wink.

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  43. Because I'm cool like that, Pee Domey. ;)

    lol

    I had some basic conversational Thai several years ago because I love Thai culture and started re-crashing myself a few months ago. It's been slow over the summer, but I'm having fun.

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  44. Just don't get in a big chicken suit. After I wrote that story last year, I can't see people in big chicken suits anymore. Zebra suits thought are still good.

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  45. That's way cool, Nevets! You need to come over. I'll cook for you. Then we can speak Thai to each other. Then we can kickbox. Then we can make fun of the farangs.

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  46. "It's always good to tease the farangs," my mom used to say.

    My muay thai is weak but I've got got some quick aikido strike defense. If you get me in a clinch, I'm done for.

    What was this post about again? I asked.

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  47. Why would you make fun of guava? Is it a particularly amusing fruit?

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  48. Oh, Scott. You're making this much too easy for us in the know! I don't really know how to kick box, though. That was a lie. But I make a mean curry.

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  49. Big D., I of course know that "farang" has more than one meaning.

    Mighty Reader and I are growing our own curry in the garden. We have not cooked with it yet, but it smells fine.

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  50. I refuse to believe that you don't kickbox. That's an essential part of my image of you.

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  51. If it helps, I am an ex-gymnast and studied Japanese martial arts for a few years. Ninjutsu. I don't think I'm supposed to announce that, though. I also like sushi and Banana Yoshimoto...who you really must read if you haven't. Have you?

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  52. I've read "Kitchen." She's weird in a really cool way. I studied boxing in high school. Which means that I was punched in the head a lot as a boy. That likely explains a great deal. I took a semester of fencing in college.

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  53. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  54. No--I think you're right, Big D, especially because Woolf and I are basically gloomy writers, and I do quite a bit of psychological floating in my narratives. But I do hope my writing's clearer! If not, I better get back to work, pronto! Clarity is my intent; it may not have been hers.

    I want to like her work--that's why I've kept trying. I've read so much about her autobiographically. But it always seems like I can't get into her fiction. Maybe I keep expecting something from it that just won't be there, and I should just try to appreciate it for what is there. Sometimes I screw up things and can't even apply my own principles. Maybe I can find order in what I've perceived as Woolf's disorder.

    I always wanted to call you Big D.--I laughed so hard the first time Scott did! I picture you wearing a black fedora, slightly--and a bit evilly--covering one eye, Big D. lol.

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  55. Sorry about this--I don't know why that double posted--I've been having all kinds of problems with blogger today....

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  56. Bummer no kickboxing, because I think your ninjitsu could beat my aikido if you were ever flexible enough to be a gymnast.

    Curry makes everything good, though.

    Even mangos.

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  57. I've just spent some time looking at excerpts of Woolf's work--maybe I kept starting with the wrong Woolf books. I never tried Between The Acts until tonight, and that one seems pretty clearly written; I'll try to finish that one. And of course I've heard of and have read some excerpts from A Room Of One's Own. When I've read her speaking as herself, she's made more sense to me. I don't understand why she seems to change her voice so much in her fiction, or maybe I'm wrong about that. I'll see.

    I tend to read books book-by-book. Like I think Good Morning, Midnight is one of the best novels ever written. But I've repeatedly tried to get through Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea and still can't finish that one; I still think it's overrated. Between the extremely depressing content and Rhys's extremely depressing voice--I cannot muster enough enthusiasm there. I tire easily, I always suffer with having too little potential energy. When I read something, it must provide me with enough activation energy so I can fully engage with the work.

    By the way, I mistakenly used autobiographically above when I should have used biographically. I've read nonfiction both by and about her, but much more biographical information than autobiographical.

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  58. Scott, so you're a boxing fencing rocker guy? That's pretty cool.

    FP, There are plenty of writers that i want to like and can't. That's always interesting to me. You and Woolf are similar, but you're not exactly the same. And since clarity is so important to you, perhaps that difference is big enough to keep you from getting into her work. I'm surprised you like Big D, LOL.

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  59. What a great discussion! I'm sad that I didn't make the time to come over here and participate yesterday, so forgive me if what I say has already been said

    Domey, I think Woolf accomplished what she wanted to accomplish - she made you look twice and question something, and from what I remember of studying Virginia Woolf, many believed she did everything with a very specific purpose. It wasn't always clear to me what she was trying to do, but after questioning things in Orlando, I remember getting much more out of the text than I would have if particular elements "were just like everything else."

    With that said - and people probably already said it up above - I believe the creative quote usage brings another layer to the story and does what Jane mentions at the beginning: shocks the reader out of her complacency about the scene. Getting the reader to ask why can be very powerful.

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  60. Getting the reader to ask why can be powerful, but it can also be distracting and create artificial distance.

    To put it most coarsely, clever and intentional literary gimmicks can have the exact same effect as typos and mechanical errors if you are not extremely careful.

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  61. Nevets: That is, of course, very true, but Virginia Woolf didn't go around making typos and grammatical errors to make her readers ask why. She did this on purpose, I'm pretty sure, especially since it happens throughout the book.

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  62. Michelle, not questioning whether or not she did it on purpose. I'm convinced she did. What I was saying is actually that even as an intentional device, it can have the same impact as a typo or a mechanical error. It's a double-edged sword.

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  63. Nevets: Oh, I see what you're saying, yes. I remember having a discussion similar to this in my college English classes. I think the conclusion we came to was that it depends on what kind of a reader is examining the text - if they examine it at all. I remember one student getting angry because e.e. cummings didn't capitalize things. It's bad grammar, they said. Yeah, well...

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  64. DomeyDavinDomeyDavin..., I never think of Big D. specifically as meaning Big Daddy. It looks like something else to me! lolololol

    I thought Scott was being humorously perverse at first, and then I realized, NO, it's just MY one-track mind.

    This has been my secret little laugh here all along--now the secret's out.

    Maybe I read Shakespeare too closely in my teen years--sex is everywhere in there! I seem to remember a court jester somewhere yelling out something like "Hold my piece!" Or did my one-track mindness imagine that too? I thought it was in King Lear because I read that one several times back then; but given the language changes, that might not have meant what it sounds like (at least to me) today.

    So let me just say that SOMEthing in his texts gave me that imagery, and I thought it was both amazing and funny, especially when I saw others talking about his works with such serious faces and snooty voices. I always imagine Old Shakes sitting there mockingly laughing at everyone as they read his texts.....

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  65. FP: No, it's not you, it's Bill S. There is so much sex talk in his plays that in the 18th century a guy named Tom Bowdler published an edition of the plays that edited out all the double entendres and it was so infamous that the word "bowdlerize" entered the language to mean "cleaning up to fit prudishness." Some passages in Shakespeare, even in his really serious plays, are just...well, there's no other word for it but obscene. Which some of us like.

    I'm not going to try to guess why Dr. Malasarn wants to be called "Big Daddy."

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  66. I'd heard the term bowdlerize used, but had no idea that's what it came from--thanks for the info! A similar terrible "abridgement" was done to Michelangelo's work in The Sistine Chapel; that makes my blood boil in a bad way. He gave so much of himself to that work--couldn't they just leave it alone? And, in that case, I don't think Michelangelo really meant anything sexual in most of the nude depictions.

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  67. Why can't all of our comment discussions be like this?

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  68. This is a family blog, mister doctor!

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  69. So, Domey, I haven't tried this technique very often since college. I played with it a smidge today over on Flashy Fiction. It's an un-edited flash response, but I think the technique worked okay-ish.

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  70. Hey Nevets, thanks a lot for the link. You're use of quotations feels more systematic in this piece. I've done similar things, and I do like the feel of it. It somehow puts me closer into the narrator's head. Cool story!

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  71. Ugh, you're right it wan't borderline random. Hrm. I'm too much of a rule monkey. lol

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