In Dialect

One of the most difficult, but most rewarding reads is a book written in dialect. Difficult, because dialect usually adds spelling to the writing which is consistent with the sound of the dialect, and has NOTHING to do with proper spelling. Most rewarding, because 'getting' the dialect lends a richer experience to the read.

One of my favorite books in dialect is "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", the presence of certain insensitive words notwithstanding. I read this book aloud to my sons as they were growing up, and being the person I am, I read it 'in character' - a different voice for each character, and, to the extent I was able, in a close approximation of the accent described in the book. Doing that gave me an opportunity to talk to my boys about race, and culture, and how certain words weren't proper to use in regards to others who might look or think differently than they might. Reading "Jim" properly gives one a feel for him and a sympathy for him as a man. That, I felt, is the most valuable thing my sons got from having "Huck Finn" read to them.

Now, there are two new candidates for inclusion in my library of books I've read, both of which are 'dialect' books.

"A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole - a giggling comedy set in a New Orleans beset by a cast of characters that will make you laugh just thinking about what they've done.

"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett - the 'dream book' we all want to write. This is her FIRST novel, it's a best seller, and it's been made into a movie. One suspects the book might be good. In dialect or otherwise.



Big Mark 243 said...

Wow... I read 'Confederacy ...' as I child and it has stayed with me as the kind of book that I wish I could write...

... gonna take a pass on 'The Help'... I don't sense authenticity in the novel... it may have happened someplace that way, but I still find it hard to fathom... (going on reviews of the both the book and movie)

...Next Monday night... as Bart Scott (who is from where??) might say... Can't wait!

Miss ash tuesday said...

The Help IS a fantastic book. You would love it!!

Grandmother said...

I've just finished "The Help" and treasured it. I've talked some friends here to read it, too, so we can discuss it. One of them grew up in Louisiana and speaks of the book's authenticity from her experience. It happened in the years of my growing up and I carry reverberations of it in my bones. The dialect gave it great immediacy.

Megan (Best of Fates) said...

I've heard great things about A Confederacy of Dunces but I admit, I seldom like books written in dialect, I find it really hard to figure out what's actually being said!

Christina S. said...

"Uncle Tom's Cabin" is another one written in heavy dialect. I read it to my children about two years ago (they were 11 & 15 at the time); in character of course!

Lora said...

I'm in the middle of Huck Finn now!

I liked Trainspotting. It's pretty graphic and sad, but it's a good one.
And they have a glossary in the back:)