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The language

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stewamax
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The language

#608682

Postby stewamax » August 12th, 2023, 9:50 pm

Does anyone choose books just for the pleasure of reading elegant language? And prose - or confined to poetry?
If so, which authors / books?

Urbandreamer
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Re: The language

#608684

Postby Urbandreamer » August 12th, 2023, 10:29 pm

stewamax wrote:Does anyone choose books just for the pleasure of reading elegant language? And prose - or confined to poetry?
If so, which authors / books?


Sometimes. Though before I have read a book, I don't know if the language will have that elegance.

As an example can I recommend a YA book that I read as a YA.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Riddle-Master_of_Hed

Slightly more grown up, all the books by Lois McMaster Bujold show excellent use of language, though not flowery. The Penric short stories possibly show the best use of words, though I'm a fan of the Vorkosigan books for their plot.

That said, I started listening to an audiobook by yet another author and had to give up. The language and narration was simply flowery, distracting from any plot, without conveying meaning. Sorry but I won't damn the author by name.

Edit, here is a link to a sample of part of the first Penric short story to judge the language.
https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_p ... d-1st-link

servodude
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Re: The language

#608687

Postby servodude » August 13th, 2023, 12:06 am

stewamax wrote:Does anyone choose books just for the pleasure of reading elegant language? And prose - or confined to poetry?
If so, which authors / books?


This might be getting a bit meta but https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elements_of_Eloquence is a great read if you like English for her own sake

Urbandreamer
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Re: The language

#608837

Postby Urbandreamer » August 14th, 2023, 7:48 am

stewamax wrote:Does anyone choose books just for the pleasure of reading elegant language? And prose - or confined to poetry?
If so, which authors / books?


Oh, I've remembered another "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".
I'm not a fan of the story, which begs the question "why make it into a film", but the way the words are used makes it worth reading or listening to.

Dod101
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Re: The language

#608841

Postby Dod101 » August 14th, 2023, 8:03 am

Urbandreamer wrote:
stewamax wrote:Does anyone choose books just for the pleasure of reading elegant language? And prose - or confined to poetry?
If so, which authors / books?


Sometimes. Though before I have read a book, I don't know if the language will have that elegance.

As an example can I recommend a YA book that I read as a YA.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Riddle-Master_of_Hed

Slightly more grown up, all the books by Lois McMaster Bujold show excellent use of language, though not flowery. The Penric short stories possibly show the best use of words, though I'm a fan of the Vorkosigan books for their plot.

That said, I started listening to an audiobook by yet another author and had to give up. The language and narration was simply flowery, distracting from any plot, without conveying meaning. Sorry but I won't damn the author by name.

Edit, here is a link to a sample of part of the first Penric short story to judge the language.
https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_p ... d-1st-link


Reading your extract from the Penric story I am not sure that I would have the patience to read it all but I suspect it would make for a good listen in the car for instance. I read mostly non fiction but I enjoy fiction which has a good atmosphere. That comes through the use of words but the use of language for its own sake? I am not so sure.

I appreciate your post though.

Dod

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Re: The language

#608847

Postby Arborbridge » August 14th, 2023, 8:41 am

Dod101 wrote:
Urbandreamer wrote:
Sometimes. Though before I have read a book, I don't know if the language will have that elegance.

As an example can I recommend a YA book that I read as a YA.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Riddle-Master_of_Hed

Slightly more grown up, all the books by Lois McMaster Bujold show excellent use of language, though not flowery. The Penric short stories possibly show the best use of words, though I'm a fan of the Vorkosigan books for their plot.

That said, I started listening to an audiobook by yet another author and had to give up. The language and narration was simply flowery, distracting from any plot, without conveying meaning. Sorry but I won't damn the author by name.

Edit, here is a link to a sample of part of the first Penric short story to judge the language.
https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_p ... d-1st-link


Reading your extract from the Penric story I am not sure that I would have the patience to read it all but I suspect it would make for a good listen in the car for instance. I read mostly non fiction but I enjoy fiction which has a good atmosphere. That comes through the use of words but the use of language for its own sake? I am not so sure.

I appreciate your post though.

Dod


I feel much the same way, though I might go further. I really lose patience with authors how include too much description and who delight in showing off their "eloquent" language for the sake of it. I just want them to get on with the plot! I don't have the patience or interest - similarly with poetry: just say what you mean, not in riddles and metaphor.


Arb.

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Re: The language

#608852

Postby Urbandreamer » August 14th, 2023, 9:12 am

Dod101 wrote:Reading your extract from the Penric story I am not sure that I would have the patience to read it all but I suspect it would make for a good listen in the car for instance.
Dod


I did say that it was a SHORT story (well novella). Just checked and it's 129 pages. That might be an issue on a car journey.

I mostly read or listen to fiction and tend to prefer books with a good plot. In particular a good enough plot that if it's well written as opposed to badly written, I don't notice how good the writing is. I'm not a "deep" or "close" reader. But the OP was looking for examples where the writing was remarkable.

Here is another quote from a different one of her works. Would you believe that this is space opera?

A sea of mist drifted through the cloud forest—soft, gray, luminescent. On the high ridges the fog showed brighter as the morning sun began to warm and lift the moisture, although in the ravine a cool, soundless dimness still counterfeited a predawn twilight.


Double the length at 295 pages, but fairly short. Obviously with short works every word has to count.

Indeed her writing in this Hugo and Nebula wining short (102 pages) is often commented upon.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mountains-Mour ... C90&sr=8-1

If you search, you may find a free copy out there, as it was available for a time on the free library hosted by the publisher.

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Re: The language

#608855

Postby Bubblesofearth » August 14th, 2023, 9:22 am

Well, this one's not short but the language is, for me at least, definitely part of the attraction. I give you the Gormenghast trilogy and the opening paragraph as a taster;

Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls. They sprawled over the sloping earth, each one half way over its neighbour until, held back by the castle ramparts, the innermost of these hovels laid hold on the great walls, clamping themselves thereto like limpets to a rock. These dwellings, by ancient law, were granted this chill intimacy with the stronghold that loomed above them. Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the seasons, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints. This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.

There's some good poetry in the books as well.

BoE

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Re: The language

#608856

Postby Arborbridge » August 14th, 2023, 9:24 am

Bubblesofearth wrote:Well, this one's not short but the language is, for me at least, definitely part of the attraction. I give you the Gormenghast trilogy and the opening paragraph as a taster;

Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls. They sprawled over the sloping earth, each one half way over its neighbour until, held back by the castle ramparts, the innermost of these hovels laid hold on the great walls, clamping themselves thereto like limpets to a rock. These dwellings, by ancient law, were granted this chill intimacy with the stronghold that loomed above them. Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the seasons, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints. This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.

There's some good poetry in the books as well.

BoE



Ah yes - I did enjoy those books. Maybe I had more patience back then?

stevensfo
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Re: The language

#609365

Postby stevensfo » August 16th, 2023, 5:05 pm

servodude wrote:
stewamax wrote:Does anyone choose books just for the pleasure of reading elegant language? And prose - or confined to poetry?
If so, which authors / books?


This might be getting a bit meta but https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elements_of_Eloquence is a great read if you like English for her own sake


I just had a quick look at the link, and the first section on Alliteration is not even correct.
Repeating the sound of the first consonant in a series of words.


Not true. Alliteration is the sound of letters repeating throughout a phrase, very effective if at the beginning of words but not necessarily: 'Untold trials of attrition, attacks, antagonistic stand-offs to eternity'.

Steve

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Re: The language

#609418

Postby servodude » August 16th, 2023, 9:56 pm

stevensfo wrote:
servodude wrote:
This might be getting a bit meta but https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elements_of_Eloquence is a great read if you like English for her own sake


I just had a quick look at the link, and the first section on Alliteration is not even correct.
Repeating the sound of the first consonant in a series of words.


Not true. Alliteration is the sound of letters repeating throughout a phrase, very effective if at the beginning of words but not necessarily: 'Untold trials of attrition, attacks, antagonistic stand-offs to eternity'.

Steve


I was recommending the book not the Wikipedia page; sorry if that wasn't clear

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Re: The language

#609450

Postby stevensfo » August 17th, 2023, 9:15 am

servodude wrote:
stevensfo wrote:
I just had a quick look at the link, and the first section on Alliteration is not even correct.

Not true. Alliteration is the sound of letters repeating throughout a phrase, very effective if at the beginning of words but not necessarily: 'Untold trials of attrition, attacks, antagonistic stand-offs to eternity'.

Steve


I was recommending the book not the Wikipedia page; sorry if that wasn't clear


Sorry. Just that we had an English teacher who was really hot on that subject, and I saw her ghostly apparition scowling at me. 8-)

Steve

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Re: The language

#609453

Postby servodude » August 17th, 2023, 9:29 am

stevensfo wrote:
servodude wrote:
I was recommending the book not the Wikipedia page; sorry if that wasn't clear


Sorry. Just that we had an English teacher who was really hot on that subject, and I saw her ghostly apparition scowling at me. 8-)

Steve


A glaring ghostly ghoul gets me going too! ;)

stewamax
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Re: The language

#609579

Postby stewamax » August 17th, 2023, 9:23 pm

Bubblesofearth wrote:Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls. They sprawled over the sloping earth, each one half way over its neighbour until, held back by the castle ramparts, the innermost of these hovels laid hold on the great walls, clamping themselves thereto like limpets to a rock. These dwellings, by ancient law, were granted this chill intimacy with the stronghold that loomed above them. Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the seasons, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints. This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.

I enjoyed the first two books (Titus Groan and Gormenghast) but not the third (Titus Alone).
I especially remember Sepulchrave, Earl Groan slowly metamorphosing to resemble a huge owl, and entering the Tower of Flints where the real death-owls awaited him...

Urbandreamer
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Re: The language

#609592

Postby Urbandreamer » August 17th, 2023, 11:35 pm

stewamax wrote:I enjoyed the first two books (Titus Groan and Gormenghast) but not the third (Titus Alone).
I especially remember Sepulchrave, Earl Groan slowly metamorphosing to resemble a huge owl, and entering the Tower of Flints where the real death-owls awaited him...


I confess that I didn't, though accept that they are an ideal example.
I failed to find the plot. Or thread that could draw me in.

Though the use of words and language is stunning.

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Re: The language

#611739

Postby DelianLeague » August 28th, 2023, 4:04 pm

Hello,

Your question had me racking my brain about possible books that were ‘Elegant’ but every time I thought of one, I decided that they weren’t really elegant, just well written.

All I could think about were some of the UK classics like ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’ by Lytton or some of the Thomas Hardy Novels but you could say that they are not strictly elegant.

So, here is a book that I recently read that I do think is definitely elegant:

The Essays of Elia by Charles Lamb (1823)

The good thing about this book is that it is a collection short essays (often amusing) so you can just pick up the book when you have some spare time and then put it down for a while.
I remember this book being everywhere when I was young, literally on every bookshelf you looked at, so it must be well thought of to have survived so long. Alas, now you never see it anymore.

One other book is:

Antic Hay by Aldus Huxley (1923)

It’s been nearly 40 years since I read this book but I remember being impressed by his extraordinary knowledge of the English language and I think it may have also been elegant.

Enjoy them anyway, they are exceptional books. D.L.

UncleEbenezer
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Re: The language

#617789

Postby UncleEbenezer » September 29th, 2023, 9:56 am

stewamax wrote:
Bubblesofearth wrote:Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls. They sprawled over the sloping earth, each one half way over its neighbour until, held back by the castle ramparts, the innermost of these hovels laid hold on the great walls, clamping themselves thereto like limpets to a rock. These dwellings, by ancient law, were granted this chill intimacy with the stronghold that loomed above them. Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the seasons, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints. This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.

I enjoyed the first two books (Titus Groan and Gormenghast) but not the third (Titus Alone).
I especially remember Sepulchrave, Earl Groan slowly metamorphosing to resemble a huge owl, and entering the Tower of Flints where the real death-owls awaited him...


I'd say Titus Groan - the first and best of the Gormenghast books - is surely also the outstanding example of language that's a sheer pleasure to read yet where the plot is, um, well, Godot has yet to arrive. I thought Gormenghast was much weaker: it's laboured, and the attempt to introduce more plot lines doesn't work so well. But I rather liked Titus Alone, albeit with allowances for jarring of some of the sillier elements.

Anyone here get on with the original (and best?) shaggy dog story, Tristram Shandy?

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Re: The language

#617801

Postby fisher » September 29th, 2023, 10:35 am

I love the way Evelyn Waugh wrote. Brideshead Revisited is particularly beautifully written IMO.


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