shelly at shelly at
Wed Aug 1 11:26:27 EDT 2001

Nat wrote:
>It must be difficult for a modern author to not just put on the
>brakes ... but to actually adopt as modus operandi the more
>deliberate pacing of Austen and Dickens, especially in dialogue and
>interior monologue.

I?m not sure Austen & Dickens are actually slower. In Austen the events themselves may seem fairly trivial to us - a walk round the garden in Mansfield Park, or a walk round the room in P&P - but I don?t know that the speed at wch they happen is particularly slow. The dialogue is perhaps more measured than modern conversations, but that probably depends to whom you talk (being a stammerer and also not someone who can think quickly in conversation, I tend to cultivate a Johnsonian style of conversation). As for Dickens, I?d have thought he?s often pretty breathless both in the speed at wch events happen and in the conversations he describes - to take an extreme example, Mr Jingle in Pickwick Papers. I?ll give you that the books are longer though, and probably take more concentration to read than books set in our own time (though again this may be down to the defamiliarising effect of the past).

There are also some modern writers I think are pretty deliberately paced - Ivy Compton-Burnett, for example; the way in wch her characters (I?m generalising from one book - A Heritage & its History - & haven?t feel the need to read more than that, so shan?t be surprised if I?m shot down) make a statement wch is descriptive of their feelings or the situation, & wch doesn?t move events along.

I think pace may partly be about how much of the gaps are filled in for us. For instance (squeak of brakes as we veer back towards On Topic) I?d say Archer?s Goon is fairly fast-paced, because we aren?t given all that much of the characters? thought processes. They work things out & the first we hear of it is when they tell someone else the conclusion they?ve come to - so the plot leaps as we read. In contrast, in Deep Secret we get a lot of Rupert Venables?s thoughts, so particularly at the start things appear to move slowly - though in fact, if you look at what happens when, events are rushing past - all those faxes Rupert keeps getting about the Koryfos Empire, and the journeys he makes to try to find the Magid candidates, show that. There also appears to be more than one storyline at the start of the book, wch ought to increase the sense of pace, but as everything is filtered for us through Rupert?s one-step-at-a-time consciousness, everything is slowed down.


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