Sunday, September 13, 2009

Small rants...

So. I recently finished reading Eldest (the book right after Eragon in the Inheritance cycle). Overall, I find it an engaging and entertaining story. Perhaps it is a bit long at times, but I was eager to get to the end, and I am already looking forward to starting Brisingr (though I think I will take a short break and read a few shorter novels before diving into another huge book).

That being said, I really feel the need to vent about some of my pet peeves with regards to these books.

1. His vocabulary sounds rather pretentious. I have always been big on vocabulary- I like to learn new words, and I have been known myself to use big words on occasion (though generally, I am not using them to show off... they just slip out ;). I'm okay with writers using big words, even when they are words I am unfamiliar with. My problem here is that he uses so many so often, it sounds more like showing off. I realize that it is possible I might be jealous that this kid (well, young adult, now) knows more words than I do, but I think it goes beyond that. There have been many times when it feels like he uses a particular word just to show off that he knows how to use it. While I am learning a number of new words in reading these books, I gotta say- I'm not a fan of the showing-off.

2. I found a very awkward line that has been driving me crazy for weeks- so much so that I had to talk to a few fellow English majors (and my sister, Sarah, who is also very knowledgeable in these matters) to feel vindication that it is not just me being picky. At one point in the story, one of the characters says, "A myriad issues await your decision..." This could have been said any number of ways that would have been correct ("A myriad of issues...", "Myriad issues...", "The myriad issues...") but no, he had to choose the one way that was completely incorrect! Gaaaah! It still drives me crazy to think about it!

3. My biggest pet peeve, though, even more than showing off or a case of poor grammar is the ignorant use of formal language. By this, I mean the use of pronouns such as "thee," "thy/thine," "thou," etc. (I think you get the picture). Now, I realize that it is challenging to use this kind of language--I think that is why so many people have a difficult time reading Shakespeare or the KJV Bible. Maybe growing up reading the KJV and the Book of Mormon made it easier for me to grasp Shakespeare--whatever the case, I have never really had a problem with this kind of language. But every time I encounter it in these books, it seems clear that Christopher Paolini has no clue how to use it. First of all, he uses the pronouns in sporadic isolation- e.g. he may use the pronoun "thee" in one sentence and in the very next one switch back to using "you." This inconsistency is actually rather jarring, because it makes the pronouns so unexpected. Because this jarring feeling does not seem to serve any purpose (it doesn't create suspense, it doesn't seem to add anything to character development, etc.), it is more frustrating than anything. Additionally, what so many people don't seem to realize is that it is not enough to substitute "thee" or "thou" or "thy/thine" etc. for the pronouns- certain words have to change, too, to match the formal language ("would" becomes "wouldst," "does" becomes "doth," "do" becomes "dost," etc.)

Even worse than this, though, is the incorrect use of the pronouns- e.g. "I will do mine best..." (and other similar usages, though I can't find other specific examples right now). If one cannot use the language properly, it should not be attempted (unless it is to point out a character's ignorance of the language, but since several characters in the book make the same mistakes, this seems unlikely in this case).

Now, to be fair, I realize that Christopher Paolini is still very young (I think he was 15 or so when he started writing these books)- and I think he is still learning how to be a better writer (heck, we can see how J.K. Rowling got better as she wrote more and more). So I can cut him a little slack. In fact, I would probably lay more of the blame on his editor. The fact that his editor has failed to catch such errors and inconsistencies shows that he/she, too, is ignorant of these matters, which, in my opinion, is something a good editor cannot afford...

Okay. I'm a little better now. Here's hoping that Brisingr shows improvement in these issues...


Emily S. said...

Love you! English nerd.


I still need to ponder reading these books... Hmm.... Off to go ponder.

Jeanne, the mom and grandmom said...

Chuckling....and agreeing with Emily and you, Elise. Maybe you should consider editing.

The books are a good read, Em.