Strip the Willow and Rip the Bodice

Because everyone needs a hobby …

Attack of the Mullet Italics! May 25, 2010

First off – I’ve finished decorating my little office space in my aunt’s room! Yay!

My temporary office space!

Two versions (that is, the same book with different illustrations) of Alice in Wonderland, my massive Norton, a book of Lear’s poems, Ebert’s Your Movie Sucks and one of Stephen Fry’s books – Moab is My Washpot – fit nicely to the left side. I’ve some of Charlotte Brontë’s and Lewis Carroll’s juvenilia under there too. On the chair you can see Villette. On the far left, most of my Lit Theory books along with some books on Dickens (I have too many to keep track – I realized this the other day, but I think I have more books on Jane Austen). On the far right, the annotated version of Alice with another Alice book. Then there’s my lovely lattice board with pictures of my friends and teachers and blah blah – same thing.

But – more importantly – onto the new book!

'Viking in Love' by Sandra Hill

Not only did I buy this just for the title and the fantastic mullet the dude on the cover is flaunting, but look at the back cover:

Summary? All it says: "What does it take to win the love of a Viking Princess?"

So, needless to say, I had not freaking clue what this book could be about. I mean, at least with Mayhue I was forewarned about the ‘Magic’ and the time travel. There’s none of that in this book (well, not intentionally) but I sort of had to just dive in.

Okay, when you open the book there is a … sort of summary. I wouldn’t call it so but I guess it suffices when the general reader is picking out this sort of book. I know I didn’t address this with Mayhue’s novel, but here’s the exact moment to mention it. On the back of her book, her summary was divided into two parts: the male and the female. So it is with this ‘summary’ – we get the female perspective, in the first person voice. And then we get the male in the same way. They don’t give us a summary – just a general idea of what is to come.

But it’s not reliable at all. I’m 200 pages in and can say that with easy certainty. Why? Because the voices we were on this page are far far far removed from what we encounter in the novel itself.

With the first book I read, I started talking about narrative voice – and I think that’s what I’m going to do with this novel. It’s especially important for this novel, I think since it is a different style from the last, and it’s also rather peculiar. The narrative takes on several of the aspects I talked about not only in narrative, but in dialect in the previous text.

So – let me break it down in parts like I did before – these are the things I noted when it came to the narrative of this particular text.

  • Crude sexuality
  • Free indirect discourse
  • Crisscrossing time
  • So many ‘What?’s written in my marginal notes I’ve lost count

First – Crude Sexuality.

To be blunt – I’m really sick of reading about the main male – Caedmon – and his penis. I am. We get some of the main female – Breanne – and her breasts (which, for the interested, are small compared with the rest of those at Caedmon’s house), but on every page there seems to be some sort of penis joke.

I’m not scandalized – hardly. No – to me it’s like bad, bland comedy. Poop jokes. It’s boring. That’s what makes me wonder what the desired effect of this tone is. Are we supposed to feel scandalized? Turned on? I know I’m uppity when it comes to the literature I read, but I, for some reason, cannot get caught up in this genre (yes, I know, I’ve only read two so far – but so far speaking …).

Here’s a few examples:

“‘Can I help it if I am a virile man?’ And dumb as dirt when it comes to keeping my cock in my breeches.

‘Methinks your virility is going to come back and bite you in the arse one of these days,’ Goeff said.” p.18

“Immediately her eyes fixed on a part of his naked body, which was displaying a powerful morning thickening, standing out like a flag-pole.” p.46

“And in that moment, they both realized that he had somehow landed betwixt her widespread thighs, and his favorite body part was planted smack dab up against his favorite woman’s part. And it was growing.” p.124

Seriously – the whole narrative has been like this. It hardly phases me to type it since I’ve been reading it for two days.

This is what I find intriguing though – the other novel, while in the same genre, didn’t have this crude sexuality throughout. Yes, when it came to the ‘sex scene’ it reached this sort of … intensity? But this whole novel has had this same type of sexuality throughout. It’s every page.

Caedmon’s penis is everywhere.

So now I feel like I’ve encountered two ends of the spectrum. A relatively tame narrative in A Highlander’s Homecoming and an out of control narrative in Viking in Love. The scale is, of course, able to be changed but for the moment – that is how I am going to view the sexuality in these books. It is almost as if Viking in Love needs no ‘sex scene’ – the pages are already ‘charged.’

Connecting to this idea of crude sexuality is the strange Free Indirect Discourse that occurs frequently within the novel. I spoke a lot about third-person limited in the Mayhue’s text. This isn’t written that way. Clearly, this third person narrator is … limited, but we don’t have so much access to any one character’s mind.

Until we get the Italics.

At first, I thought we were just hearing the internal voices of the two main characters. But that started to change when the words in Italics began to become … contemporary.

Look at the contrast:

“Mayhap I am getting the lung fever, too, if my tongue cannot control itself. Be still, tongue. Be still.” p.86

“And then the you-know what hit the medieval fan …” p.96

The first voice you hear is that of Caedmon – in italics, on the page. Whether I should call this free indirect discourse or just … discourse is up in the air. That is, it’s murky with the second voice (the second quote). That’s the voice that appears – in italics – of neither character.

Is it the narrator?

But if it is the narrator – why is time suddenly crisscrossing (enter here the third point)? There are points in the narrative where the single narrative voice does use words such as ”Tis’ and so on – so why sudden colloquialisms?

Doesn’t this throw the reader off?

Or are we supposed to get a chuckle?

After all – this is far from the only example. It pervades the book to the point where I’m confused as to how many narrators there are. One who sees into the characters mind and writes in italics and another who just tells the story? Or are they one in the same?

Or … is it just bad writing? Someone trying to be … clever?

Which leads me to the Whats.

I’ll admit. At times, I did laugh a little reading. Not because it has a strange narrative, but there are funny moments. Well – funny in that I really can’t believe any of it is plausible. This also brings back that idea of convenience – another note I made in the previous books.

Convenience.

What?

It all goes together – things need to fit into place – ridiculous things need to happen. Five Viking Princesses just have to kill the husband of one and flee to Caedmon’s even though he’s only a distant relative. And, of course, the only virgin in the group and the only redhead, becomes the love interest. And of course, for some reason, Caedmons has to protect them … or kick them out – I’m not that far yet but I think you can guess what happens.

Already though, things are starting to repeat. You’ll see more of that in further posts but in terms of narrative – there’s coincidence, there’s narrative changes, there’s strange time lapses. I don’t know if this will all mean anything in the end – but it’s nice to have them listed – it’s becoming a way to understand how these books are written. A bit of a glimpse into the formula of a romance novel.

And before I go to bed – PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

Reference

Hill, Sandra. Viking in Love. New York: Avon Books, 2010.