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edited June 2009 in - Reading
"At the top of the toss, the ball paused, weightless. Willy's arm dangled slack behind her back. The serve was into the sun, which at its apex the tennis ball perfectly eclipsed. A corona blazed on the ball's circumference, etching a ring on Willy's retina that would blind-spot the rest of the point."
- Double Fault, Lionel Shriver.

I know some people would say 'but its literary.' No excuse, that is bad, bad writing. Reminds me why I opt for a pared down style.


  • *cringing too*
  • Quite!
  • *joins in the cringing*

    That just felt all 'clunky' (for want of a better word) to read...I had to reread to work out what it was on about.
  • Sorry should have pointed out it was a character playing tennis and serving the ball.

    It was the corona bit that made me queasy. Trying a little bit too hard to build something 'arty' I think. I've been acting out serving an invisible ball, and I don't get the arm going slack thing; do that and your opponent will hit a winner right back.
  • I don't know. Read out of context like this - I agree, it seems overwritten. But I haven't read the book. If this scene happens at a moment of high emotional tension, it could be okay. Could be a way of conveying the emotion, that's what I mean.

    If it's just a description of a tennis serve at an "ordinary" time, then I agree, it's overdone.

    Not good enough at tennis to know about the slack arm but I'll take your word for it, Stirling.
  • *cringe*

    Because it is so overdone you lose track of what is actually happening.
  • It's the opening paragraph of the novel.

    Pretty certain it's an instance of a writer trying to show how clever they are (and failing!)
  • Fair enough...
  • Eeek. I never enjoy prose which I find hard to read out loud - probably me being simplistic. The words are out-shouting the meaning. I hate that.
  • edited June 2009
    What's he even on about?

    EDIT: Just read all of the comments.

    That's bad, I don't get any of it.
  • It reminded me of some of the winning entries in the high brow short story comps. A long paragraph and you still haven't a clue what's happening. I'm no tennis player but can a ball pause?
  • Uuuummmm, not unless you have Sky + on a tennis match and have it in HD to see it clearly.

    So, No is the answer Susie.
  • I thought not - I think Sir Issac Newton would have something to say about that. Good look with your fortnight as a Drama Assistant.
  • Thanks. :)
  • No it certainly doesn't. Spin maybe, but pausing would defy gravity I would believe!
  • As I said, unless you have Sky + HD, it's not possible.
  • I think you'll find that when the upward speed of the ball slows and equals the downward force of gravity, then for a very brief period of time - and I'm not saying you can get your stopwatch out and time this - but for a blinding slice of a second, the ball will pause before succumbing to gravity and returning earthward.
  • So from that, is it worth saying it 'paused'?

    Most probably not.
  • Depends on the writer and what effect they want to achieve.
  • But the ball doesn't pause. What is that going to achieve? Tension? I don't know how seeing as it's techically wrong.
  • It's just a description of the ball as it reaches the top of it's arc. To me, the words 'paused' and 'weightless' slow realtime, a bit like using a slow motion camera. I don't know if that's the effect she (Lionel Shriver is a female, btw) was trying to achieve but that's my opinion.
  • Whether I personally like it or not she's published, I’m not :(
  • Oh I didn't know she was a female. Unisex names are so deceptive. My bad.
  • I can't take it seriously when the character is called 'Willy'.
  • Lots of writers do that, Probie. Her real name is Margaret.
  • She's well known then? Oh my I need to get out more. Carol, I agree, I don't think I would be able to take the character either.
  • I know Carol, it took me ten pages to twig on.

    For me this paragraph epitomises the idea of 'fine writing' in the kill your darling's rule.

    When I serve, the ball never pauses. The moment it reaches the top of it's arch - thwack!
  • I find her writing a pain in arse.
  • I read an article on her a few years ago; she sounded absolutely full of herself. I pity the editor!

    Well, she obviously doesn't play tennis . . .
  • That's how I saw her, Stirling, she does come across that way.
  • Stirling, I know you're a tennis fan but do you play as well?
  • Ach! Just throw the ball in his eye and be done with it. That'll teach 'em.
  • Yeah I play too. Got hammered off my sister this morning too! (not to mention nursing a bruised ego after this afternoon's match too!)
  • My brother always hammers me. He's very good, plays in club tournaments and wins most of the time. Do you play in tournaments?
  • http://www.amazon.co.uk/Need-Talk-About-Kevin-Paperback/dp/1852424672/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1244031929&sr=1-3

    For Probie. An unusual book. Not everyone's cup of tea. Clever, though, and thought-provoking.
  • Thanks Jay. Umm, what's it about?
  • Wasn't it inspired by The Columbine Shootings? Not my cup of tea; would be like reading a novel inspired by the Dunblane Massacre (would never write that one!)

    I haven't played any tournaments; I am thinking of joining the University's tennis club in September though. Woke up this morning and realised I must have done some RSI; turned out it clicked back into place later. She had dislocated my wrist!
  • Its main theme is the uncomfortable relationship between a mother and her son.
  • ...a son who has done some pretty gruesome schoolwork, shall we say.
    I heard it when it was serialised on Radio 4.
    I'd better not tell you what I really think, but it wasn't very positive!
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