Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lines that don't stand in isolation

Recently on Authonomy, someone started a thread for people to post favourite lines from their own books. I leapt on it, fingers poised to post a few of those that never fail to make me laugh or cry (and occasionally both).

And came to a complete standstill. Because taken in isolation, the most animated reaction I could hope for would be along the lines of, "And your point is?"

"Reformed whores, Jack" perhaps retains a certain trace of grim humour, even without its context.

But "This had somehow become his fault", a line from Book Four that the Mr and I often use to each other, gives no sense of the weeks of marital negotiation, sleep deprivation and other game-playing that precede it.

"I’d have to come and get you if you didn’t, you know."
"I know."
comes after years of power play, passive (and not so passive) aggression, and large doses of self-deception, only to appear as a trivial exchange left bare on the page.

On reflection, though, it's not surprising. Clever wordplay, convoluted puns and extended jokes come from Pratchettian pens, and deliver witty one-liners that can raise a chuckle even out of context. But lines said by or about characters whom we've seen grow and interact over years don't have that luxury.

I think I'm in good company. "Reader, I married him" is almost cringeworthy taken on its own. And what could be flatter than this:
" 'Well I'm back,' he said."

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