Magic as advanced technology

Margaret Ball margaret at
Fri Sep 17 19:38:45 EDT 2004

>It's just quicker to write "her eyes danced with
>mischief" than, say, "she smiled, narrow-eyed, head on one side, her stance
>light and eager, one hand half-reaching out..." (or whatever other
>combination of expression and body language a given writer might choose to
>express a given emotion). 
Easier to read, too.  I don't know if I'd have the patience for all that 
expression and body language.

If you read the first novels or short stories produced from a culture 
where story-telling has traditionally been an oral art (West Africa, 
say) they strike you - well, they strike me, anyway - as almost naked 
compared to most English-language realistic fiction. I think it's 
because the writers/culture hadn't made the transition from oral 
storytelling and drama to printed word. There's a whole lot you have to 
add just to compensate for what the storyteller does by changing voice 
or gesturing.

But then there's Genji, which I've heard tell is the first Oriental 
novel, or anyway the first Japanese novel, or the first 
somethingorother, and it doesn't strike me that way. Though I've read it 
only in translation, and I suppose it's possible the translators took a 
lot of liberties. Anybody know?

Margaret Ball

"Americans treat their language with a furiously abundant energy - contriving two words for the price of one, hooking up unlikely neighbors with a hyphen, turning nouns into verbs and verbs into nouns - and generally beating the hell out of it."

-Pamela Frankau

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