I love tackling books written prior to the 1940's. They wrote in a different voice - if that makes any sense at all.
Sadly, I realized that over the years authors have scaled down their depth and their writing styles to accomodate readers. Detailed descriptions of landscapes and well-worded emotional expressions used to form part of our vernacular. Now the echoing blast from a gun gets broken down to mili-seconds and stripped into words - which the editors eventually scratch out.
Do we no longer credit readers with brains? Or has illiteracy ratings guided us to a more depraved grammar in order to make our stories more readable? Or has self-publishing opened the door for writers who would normally not have made it to the shelf?
Thanks I.J. and I like your levity, Cammy.
Some of this is coming home to me in quite the ironic way as I sis through our workshops. At the beginning of each session the leader discusses some vocab we might not have used/heard of. This morning, there was an open discussion that those who had Latin had the advantage, and sure enough they knew most of them and I was not in that group. Ah well.
Know what I think's hilarious? People who correct your pronunciation of Latin.
Nobody has heard a native Latin speaker speak for thousands of years, but they'll tell you how to say it like they just saw a Roman talk show.
My sister thought her brat was going to Medical school (instead of the veternary assistant/homewrecker she turned out to be) and was telling her she needed to take Latin so she'd have a leg up on anatomy and DocSpeak. I told her best take Spanish, which does the same thing and also might help her get a job...like in a Miami gunshot OR ward or something. Which, for once, she took my advice on.
My brother Pow said, "Well, in that case, might as well take Vietnamese."
Cammy, I don't think anyone here claims to be brainier than anyone else. In fact, I find myself boasting about my shortcomings as an author. I suck at odd things and sometimes struggle to find certain words or confuse them with others. I hope we all do. I frequently say that writers can't write - they tell stories. I'm not trying to be superior at all. If you knew me personally you'd fall off your chair if I suddenly proclaimed to be superior. I'm an ass at times, but that's not why I asked if we credit readers with brains.
But tell me, how can I take myself seriously as an author if I don't try my best to perfect what I do? We are writers. We use the English language to tell stories. In order to understand where we are going, we need to know where we're from. Hence the need to catch up on a bit of Shakespeare or Twain or anything in that wide sphere of literary perfection. Like art students studying Picasso or Rembrandt. Do you just write for the sake of writing? Do you not love the thrill of expressing yourself as best you could?
To prove my point, read some of the replies sent - even this one or the one you sent - and see the many spelling errors or grammatical flaws. As I write this reply I feel myself searching for the right word at the right place, because I want to express myself without offending anyone.
But we digress again. You really made the point of this discussion when you used the example of a different country and using their lingo without spelling it out for the reader. I was searching for examples of what I tried to say and you found it!! In South Africa "Kiss my poephol!" means exactly what you would think it means. If I have to explain it to the reader it means I don't credit him with brains, right?
So, full circle, as you explained it best with your earlier reply, we should refrain from treating readers like illiterate children. I share your view, but stress that we as authors should strive to accomplish something with our writing other than just entertaining them.
I believe that crediting readers with brains makes the experience of reading different than the experience of watching/playing, and that writers have to emphasize that difference to keep the written word viable.
If people can get the same type of experience watching television that they can from reading, well ... watching television is cheaper and easier. Why would they expend more money/energy to get the same experience?
Are you suggesting most readers are control freaks? That wouldn't surprise me. But it would also mean that control freaks will be the select elite if literacy ratings continue to drop.
Isn't it odd that Shakespeare was much criticized for playing to the masses and giving up real literary ambitions. Cheap rhymes. Are you sure you people just don't like archaic and hard-to-read sentences? That's what I see when I pick up old books -- writers who still don't know that writing is communication, and therefore should be flawlessly easy to read.