Thursday, April 14, 2011

That There Library Loot

I haven't yet figured out my perfect library day, but it beckons to me if there's been too long of a hiatus. I should be taking advantage of these days because the hill is not too icy to climb nor is it stifling hot in the stacks. Oh, Korea. You really got whacked with that four-season business, didn't you?

Here's what I checked out this time: Martin Eden - Jack London. Within moments of cracking open both Frank Norris' McTeague and Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, I had that shivery, excited feeling that I would like them very much. I was right. I had that same feeling when I saw Martin Eden on the shelf. For some reason, this feeling only seems to come to me with Naturalist writers. Really.


The Old-Time Cowhand - Ramon F. Adams. I'm no longer sure about this one. When I saw that it covered practically every aspect of cowboys' lives, and it was written by a premier authority on Americana and the Old West I was quite interested, but when I glanced through it, this is a sample of the kind of writing I saw on every page. From the Foreword, where Adams defends his style:


Book writin', I reckon, should be brushed and curried till it's plumb shiny and elegant. In writin' this'n, I could maybe slick up my grammar some, but because it's 'bout the old-time cowhand I want it write it in his own language jes' like he talked at the old chuck wagon. It seems more friendly and it shore gives more flavor. [...] If someone attempted to put the cowboy's speech into correct English, he'd only succeeed in destroyin' its strength and flavor. The cowboy had no use for the feller who used words that nobody could savvy without an encyclopedia and two dictionaries.


I'm very picky about reading dialect. It's OK with me if it's Mark Twain, for example. This, however, looks very awkward and self-conscious. As for "destroying its strength and flavor" if it's put into "correct English", try telling that to Larry McMurtry! I'm really torn. I want the information from this book, but I don't want to traipse through 350 pages of dropped letters and folksy narrative laid on with a trowel. Maybe I'm too dern techy, but I'm thinkin' Mr. Adams shot hisself plumb through the foot on that one.


Nan said...

I've read only one Western book in my life, The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton:

I really, really liked it. I thought it was well-written and it told me a lot about Texas, water, race relations. I happened to read it because I had read his autobiography which I was very taken with, called Sandhills Boy:

I was sad to read he had died a couple years ago. Seemed like a really happy man.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you got some great stuff! I don't know how you could read all the way through the western like that - that kind of written dialect would drive me crazy!