“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

“They Say The Fucking Smog Is The Fucking Reason You Got Such Beautiful Fucking Sunsets.”

Andrew Nugent is an interesting man, being a crime fic writer and a monk in Glenstal Abbey, and he had something interesting to say while reviewing Brian McGilloway’s BLEED A RIVER DEEP on the Op-Ed pages of the Irish Times during the week. Quoth Brother Nugent:
“I was so surprised at the frequency of the F-word that I began counting from page 168. From that point there were 55 sightings. Whatever about what real people do or do not say, with such glorious resources of vituperation available to us – especially in Irish – why repeat so obsessively these Anglo-Saxon grunts?”
  Now, the problem with insulting someone in Irish – as gaeilge – is that very few people are going to be offended, unless of course it’s the Irish-speaking few you’re trying to offend ...
  As for the Anglo-Saxon grunts – as Brother Nugent points out, this is how real people speak in the real world, particularly when they’re under pressure, which is how characters in crime fiction tend to be, particularly as the end of a novel approaches. So it’s possible to argue that an author who aspires to realism has no choice but to use foul language, and particularly ‘fuck’, that gloriously adaptable noun / verb/ adverb / adjective.
  You could also argue that foul language has its own poetry, and that there’s a rare joy to be had in reading a master of the profane (cf: the post title, courtesy of Ray Barboni, in the movie version of Elmore Leonard’s GET SHORTY).
  You could also say, ‘Fuck it, I just like the word “fuck”.’ Personally, I also like “shite”, “cunt”, “bollocks” and “me arse”.
  As always, I blame the parents …

8 comments:

AnswerGirl said...

As a tough chick on the mean streets of rural Maine, I don't notice these things much. But a friend who saw "In Bruges" told me, "It's the sweariest film I've ever seen," -- and my first viewing of that movie was nearly ruined, because I was trying to count the number and variety of profanities, obscenities and vulgarities, and lost track of the plot about 15 minutes in.

At a certain point it became almost joyful (because every word in Colin Farrell's mouth is music). One of these days I'll bring a copy of "In Bruges" to a conference, and propose a drinking game ...

Stuart Neville said...

One the main characters in my WIP has a particularly fine line in swearing, and The Twelve isn't short on expletives. Of course, the Big Daddy of Swearing that proves it is indeed big and clever to curse is Withnail & I, my favourite line being, "Monty, you terrible..."

Anyway, I don't feel that the use, or otherwise, of foul language is a valid point of criticism.

Gerard Brennan said...

Fuckin' great post. In real life, I don't swear that much (I've two young kids, after all), but I've typed the F-word more than once, I can tell you.

Stuart - Anybody who drops the C-word in the first chapter of their debut is just fine with me.

Cheers

gb

Colin said...

In the edited-for-television version of 'Divorcing Jack' they replaced 'cunt-face' with 'cock-face'.

bookwitch said...

I much prefer swearing in Swedish, unless I happen to be in Sweden. Jävla helvetes förbannade skit works for me most of the time. There are variations one can use.

Peter Rozovsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Rozovsky said...

Cunt-face with cock-face? Wonder what the committee vote was on that one.

I'd probably have outgrown my fascination with swearing long ago, but language study and travel have reawakened the old joy, and I defy any shitebag to tell me different.

Brazilian Portuguese has some good ones, a number of which have the delightful feature of beginning with x.

==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

John McFetridge said...

A lot of characters in crime fiction aren't that interested in, "such glorious resources of vituperation," and I think you need to be true to the characters.

In which case blaming the parents is the correct way to go.