As part of Roof Beam Reader's TBR Pile Challenge, which I have kept up with relatively well throughout the year thus far, I'm reading Sophie's Choice. I have zero idea when I thought that would be a stellar addition to my shelf, but I asked for it for Christmas, and my at-the-time 12-year-old brother bought it for me. Yeah. Appropriate? No. Oh well.
So I'm pretty near the beginning, and I have been CONFLICTED, because I hate -- HATE -- when authors use unnecessary words. Like Nabokov and his damn 'nates' in Lolita. Screw you, sir. He also FOR REAL used 'nictitate,' a word I made fun of in my high school SAT prep class because all it means is 'to wink,' only it sounds nasty. Our sample sentence in the book was "The old man was nictitating at her." Gross.
Anyway, so the book is narrated by an author, a young Virginian who -- dare we guess? -- is supposed to basically be William Styron, who was born in Virginia and would've been the character's age at the time the book takes place. The young Virginian narrator author person (more words! more!) likes the English language. A lot. And he uses it almost to its limit. And I am TORN because there is a very fine line for me between using unnecessary words and reveling in the language. I love reveling. It is my fave.
Here's an example of him treading this very precarious line: "He was an amorphously fleshed, slope-shouldered, rather ovoid-looking young man of about twenty-eight, with kinky brick-colored hair and that sullen brusqueness of manner of the New York indigene."
Ovoid?? Indigene?? Who uses these words?? No one! No one uses them! No one but William Styron and a few annoying grad students! From my basic principle, I should dislike this book, but the thing is that I super-super-love it. I think he uses these words not to mess with the reader, as Nabokov kind of does (I hate that guy), but because he just really loves words.
I have this image of him coming up with the incredibly depressing idea for this book and then flailing and saying "I WILL USE ALL THE WORDS." At the rate he's going (I'm only 50 pages in), I feel like he could succeed. While maintaining an interesting narrative. Good job, Styron. Good job.