Thursday, February 17, 2011

Awful writing

As you can tell from my review below of David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, I enjoyed it very much. However, there was one passage in it that was so dreadful I couldn't believe what I was reading.

Orito, the heroine, has been imprisoned in a 'nunnery' which is, in fact, far from a spiritual establishment. I will not reveal the fate of Orito and the other unfortunates captured there, but it is imperative for her well-being that she escapes. This she attempts to do (following hints from a seemingly magic cat, an unnecessary throwback to earlier novels when the influence of Haruki Murakami was significant). She gets lost and finds herself outside a room at the gatehouse.

There, she overhears two guards talking. Talking about her. Talking about how she came to be trapped in the nunnery in the first place. Relating the whole terrible story so that she and we can know what happened. How convenient that they just happened to be having that conversation at precisely that moment. How unbelievable. It's the worst example of info-dumping - using dialogue to fill in story - I've read in a published book in a very long time. It's absolutely terrible.

I know there is a strong element of pastiche in the novel, and Mitchell is playing with conventions. But, seriously, if you want to write a pastiche of old-fashioned adventure stories, you don't do it by taking their worst failings and making them even worse.

No comments: