Saturday, 14 March 2009
Aagh, not the present tense...
Why do I get a feeling of lack of enthusiasm whenever I start to read a book written in the present tense? There seems to be more of it about these days.
I've struggled to work out its appeal for writers, and all I've come up with is that it gives a spurious significance to the mundane. So you get passages like:
She opens the steel-veneered cabinet door, and takes down the jar of instant coffee. Unscrewing the cap, she measures a spoonful of coffee granules into a mug. The kettle boils. Martha switches it off, and pours steaming water. She adds sugar and milk and stirs, wondering whether to give in to the temptation posed by the pristine packet of Hobnobs.
Gaah! Who cares? Why describe this boring stuff?
But apart from encouraging the sort of writing you might do as an exercise at a writers' class, there is, I think, another reason why my mind reels away from the present tense. The Janet and John series; frightfully dull books that children learned to read with in the fifties, sixties and seventies.
Once you'd cracked Janet and John, you got on to the good stuff; what my daughter called 'chapter books' when she was small. Books that you read for pleasure, that were exciting and unpredictable.
And written in the past tense, like grown-up books.
Posted by Lexi at Saturday, March 14, 2009