Thursday, December 9, 2010

Literary Blog Hop: How Irritating!

Literary Blog Hop

The Blue Bookcase has started a "Literary Blog Hop" for blogs "that primarily feature reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion." It is a lot of fun and I have found several wonderful blogs through this event.

Each week, in addition to hopping around and visiting some terrific book blogs, participants answer a bookish question.  The Blue Bookcase team came up with this week's question:

What is one of your literary pet peeves? Is there something that writers do that really sets your teeth on edge? Be specific, and give examples if you can.

I try not to read books that set my teeth on edge, so I don't have a lot of literary pet peeves.  In fact, I am pretty tolerant once I commit to reading a book.  This is in complete contrast with the rest of my life, in which I suffer daily from a host of pet peeves too embedded and byzantine to even examine.

Christie at the Blue Bookcase already covered one p.p. I could come up with: long dialog with no identification of the speaker.  If you get to the point where you have to go back and count every other paragraph to figure out who's talking, it needs help!

I've recently become frustrated with authors using the same word over and over again, like it got stuck in the author's head and no editor caught it.  This seems to happen in mysteries a lot.  The author of The Club Dumas, which I am reading now, used "rictus" one too many times for me. And I can't remember now which book I recently read, but the author used "sanguine" at least a couple dozen times (I stopped counting at about 28) to describe different people in different situations.

Along the same lines, it really does bother me when authors use similar sounding names.  Things seldom are as bad as in Advise and Consent, Allen Drury’s 1959 Pulitzer winner, in which many characters have the same name. For instance, the nominee and the Senate Majority leader are both names Robert and both go by Bob. Context usually makes clear which one is under discussion, but it takes a while to pick it apart. There are also two Hals, two Toms, and two Johns (but no Mikes, Marks, or Daves). Maybe it is more like real life to duplicate names, but some literary customs are there for a reason.

More recently, George Pelacanos drove me a bit nuts with The Night Gardener when he used the following character names: Ramone, Romeo, Rhonda, Ramirez, Rudy, Red, Rogers, Randolph (aka Randy), Regina, Robert, Ronald, Richard, Richards, Raymond, Raynella, and Ray. I needed a diagram!

How about you?  I'm looking forward to some real rants on the hop this week. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Stephanie Meyer used the word "chagrin" WAY too much in her Twilight books. It was literally in every chapter. That was a pet peeve of mine!

  3. oh that can be annoying and also maybe shows lack of imagination using similar names ,all the best stu

  4. Haha, I'm kind of like you, I have ENDLESS pet peeves in real life but I'm generally pretty open when it comes to books. I think in the back of my mind I'm thinking that the book is written that way for a reason and I just don't understand it. I guess the only thing that REALLY bugs me is when a book is blatantly terribly written.

  5. I wonder if Pelecanos did that on purpose. Too strange to be random!

  6. Allison Elise: "Chagrin" is not a word I use, so it would definitely jump out at me. I find it distracting.

    Stu: Lack of imagination or a lack of a decent -- or honest -- proofreader. :)

    IngridLola: Yes, a badly written book can be annoying. But I guess I don't have a p.p. about that because the author can't help it. It's like being peeved by ugly people. It's things that would go right if the author thought about it that bug me.

    BBD: Well, by the end of the book, I decided he had done it on purpose to make me insane.

  7. I found that the fact that all the characters in One hUndred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquex was really challenging - I kept having to refer back to the family tree at the beginning to sort out who was who.

    But other than that I have never come across that problem

  8. Yes, repeated words---argh!

  9. Your example from The Night Gardener had me laughing. Lately, in all the stories I write, I can only think of "L" names for the girls. It's really annoying. It would be great fun to write a story with only "L" names just to get back at my irritating, stubborn subconscious.

  10. lol great point! I can't think of this in regards to a novel.. but I used to watch 'Grand Designs' until I got so sick of hearing the host saying 'bespoke'... everything was 'bespoke'... annoying.

  11. Interesting...I've never come across anything like that so far! But it never did occur to me that author's I've read never use the same name twice unless it's a historical work where names of leaders and monarch were the same.

    Actually, come to think of it, when reading Colleen McCullough's Ceasar's Women, I did have this problem, but then it wasn't the writer's fault...she was dealing with historical characters.:D

  12. Good call with the overuse of certain words. I notice that, too, but it doesn't usually bother me too much unless I generally dislike the book. If it's a book/author I like, I'm more likely to view it as a charming quirk. :)

  13. I have enough trouble with names, without the sounding the same. I say it was age, but its always been so .


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