Where James Joyce Fails, Neil Gaiman Prevails

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A James Joyce art doll

A James Joyce art doll by MEDIODESCOCIDO. Some rights reserved.

A lot of people are probably going to hate me for this, but let’s have at it anyway:

No writer is perfect. Not even James Joyce.

I’ve been struggling to finish Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” for a while now. To be precise, it was the 5th of December, 2012, when my Modernism Professor assigned it as a compulsory read. (I neither finished the course nor obtained a degree in English Literature; I had to get real and find employment.)

It’s not that “Portrait” is extremely difficult, it’s just— incredibly boring. I can never bring myself to care about Stephen Dedalus, let alone what happens to him—there has not been one single event in Joyce’s bildungsroman that triggered my interest to know more. It’s like reading into the life of someone unknown, to whom I have no connection whatsoever.

There’s one other reason I have such a difficult time enjoying the novel: Continue reading

He Said, She Said: Stephen King’s Advice on Dialogue Tags

king-onwritingI think we all agree that dialogue tags are necessary for readers to know who’s talking. But writers are divided in how we use them:

Some, including Raymond Carver, simply use “he said, she said”; others apparently invent a million different synonyms for “said”; still others try to find balance between the two extremes, sometimes even fifty-fifty.

Yesterday, yet another writer, Jack Woe, jumped into the fray:

I’ve read quite a few blogs about the evilness of dialogue tags. For example, Joe Moore wrote in The Kill Zone how new authors are overusing the alternatives of said.

They go to: exclaimed, murmured, screamed, whispered, pleaded, shrieked, demanded, ordered, cried, shouted, and my all-time favorite, muttered.

Thing is, I as a reader, don’t care. I just don’t read dialogue tags — at all.

He’s not alone. To me, modifying such a perfectly fine tag as “said” is like Pimp My Ride gone bad. (Tip: Read that sentence again in Samuel L. Jackson’s voice.) Continue reading