Monday, June 6, 2011

Dialect or No Dialect?

Quickly now, because I don’t have much time…how do you all feel about books written in dialect? I know some people that simply refuse to read books that are written this way which I think is ultimately a shame because they miss out on some sure winners but at the same time I understand because they can be difficult to read.
I recently (as in today) started The Color Purple by Alice Walker and so far so good, but of course it’s written using dialect and at first it was rather difficult to settle in. Now I think I’ve adjusted to this type of writing in the book so I understand what’s going on more but I must admit that the first several pages were somewhat of a blur.

I remember when I read Beloved over a year ago, that was some of the most difficult dialect writing I’ve ever come across. So, like I said, I can understand why people would avoid books that utilize this device of storytelling. What are your feelings? Do you like it because it makes the book feel more authentic? Do you feel it’s an unnecessary annoyance? I’m curious :)

14 comments:

Red said...

For the most part I think it's annoying and distracting. If it's done well, you can pick up the structure and get to the point where you don't even notice it. Case in point, I didn't even remember that The Color Purple is written in dialect. I just remember the story. Most of the time though I feel like the dialect gets in the way of understanding the story.

Sarah said...

I think it adds to the authenticity if done well. But it definitely can be difficult. I remember that the most of Their Eyes were Watching God. Can't remember if that was a big thing on why I didn't like Beloved, or if it was more of the story itself. It can also add to the character's personality, like in Tom Jones

Teacher/Learner said...

I think it makes you think even harder about the dialogue and word choice of the character. I don't find it annoying at all. It just takes getting used to like the distinct style of an author sometimes does.

Teacher/Learner said...

P.S. That is if the dialect adds something to the story's meaning. If it's used for novelty, that is just plain sad.

Dana said...

Most of the time I love dialect - it allows me to get into the character's heads and life in a more meaningful way. I must say, I really didn't like "Beloved" but the dialect had nothing to do with that.

Jennifer said...

I felt this way when I read The Help....it took me several pages before I was comfortable. In the end I think the use of dialect added to the story.

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

I agree it can be challenging but I generally appreciate the dialect once I get used to it. I find that reading it out loud for a few pages can go a long way to make me comfortable hearing that voice in my head for the rest of the book.

picky girl said...

If it's done well, I love it. About to write a post on a book entirely in dialect that I really enjoyed.

Wall-to-wall books said...

Oh I love it! It makes me feel like I am really there listening to people. My favorite is southern books.

FBT said...

I don't like it. I understand why it's done, but I just find it so distracting. But then I'm a language and word-nerd.

Also, The Color Purple is the only book that I will say that the movie was better. Because of the way it's written.

llevinso said...

It's interesting that so many people seem to not like Beloved. I think I gave it 3 stars when I read it. I didn't really like it but I didn't NOT like it either. I think it was an important read but very difficult, and not just because of the dialect.

And I agree with most of you that if the dialect is well done and done for a PURPOSE then it's worth it.

Jenn said...

Sometimes dialect works for me and other times it throws me off to the point where I cannot finish the book. I didn't mind it in The Color Purple, but I think that They're Eyes Were Watching God was the most difficult one I've ever tried to get though.

Jennifer Orozco said...

Sorry, llevinso...this is Jennifer. I don't know why, but over the last few weeks I've been trying to comment and it won't accept my google id. don't know why.

it also does this to me on as the crow flies website, but no one else's. i don't know why.

anyhow, in response to your question...some dialect is easier than others.

beloved and the color purple came easily for me.
as was somerset maugham's "liza of lambeth." but mark twain's "adventures of towm sawyer" was painful and I never finished the novel.

as for beloved itself, i wasn't a bid fan of it. i thought it was too onstensibly writerly... i much preferred the style of "the bluest eye." it felt more honest, more compelling, and it definitely hit me harder.

i should probably pick up beloved again, to reassess. but i'm so behind on my reading and reviewing as it is...

llevinso said...

Jenny! I've heard that some people are having a problem with Google Friend Connect. Don't know why... Good to hear from you though! And I've heard good things about Bluest Eye and a few others of Morrisons. I definitely want to read more of her work.