Paratalk or torque?

My new column, with a title that somehow makes sense. From now on until I stop I will be examining a paragraph in whatever detail I choose. This is also a good time for guests to pop in and do their own paragraph.

Today my paragraph is from No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer. I haven’t read this book for many years, it’s been sitting gathering dust at the back of the shelves. I do recall Heyer writing a really good detective novel. The paragraph I’ve chosen is one of the few I can see with exposition.

Prostrate Ermyntrude might be, but she was not the woman to receive any gentleman (even her doctor) in a tumbled wrapper, with her hair in disorder, and her face not made-up. A message was brought down to Dr. Chester that she would see him in ten minutes’ time if he would be good enough to wait; and the Prince at once took it upon himself to conduct him into the morning-room, and to beguile the time for him with conversation. When Mary came, not ten, but twenty minutes later, to summon the doctor, she found that he had been cajoled into talking about pre-historic remains, the study of which was one of his hobbies. He had collected a certain amount of pottery and a number of flint weapons in the Dordogne, and in East Anglia, but the Prince claimed to have visited Anau, in South Turkistan, and was describing some fragments of pottery of geometric pattern in a way that made it seem probably that he really had seen these treasures.

So much in these few words. Let’s see what I can break down for you.

The language used indicates it’s been written some time ago. It gives an impression of a totally different era. Look at the word ‘beguile’, nowadays we’d probably use the word ‘pass’ or ‘entertain’. When I mention this book was first published in 1939 shows you that it’s entirely within keeping of the time of writing.

The descriptions of the way Erymtrude refuses to see anyone without being absolutely perfectly dressed and accoutered gives some hints to her character. She’s pedantic. And the fact that she requests he waits ten minutes to see her when she’s summoned him tells me that she’s used to keeping people waiting. Then add that she takes even longer to get ready than she’d indicated. Someone like me who ‘summons’ the doctor but doesn’t care what they look like when he comes would probably be described as ‘slovenly’. I’m not even going to examine the fact that she’s summonsed the doctor but not been ready to see him the moment he gets there.

The doctor being sent for indicates the people living in this house are of a certain class who couldn’t possibly visit the doctor in his surgery. They feel they are above doing that sort of thing and that people of a lower class must come to them.

I chose this paragraph deliberately. In my quick scan of this book it was one of the few paragraphs without speech. I’ll have to reread the book to be certain but I’m wondering if Heyer was a master at writing a book where the bulk of the text is in speech. If so, then it’s the opposite of me. I struggle to write speech and so the bulk of what I write has very little speech.

There is more but I’m losing my words and my time. I spent my time doing housework yesterday. Yes, my house is clean but it meant I ignored everything else that needs doing including writing my blog.

In case you want to buy the book and read it to see what I’m saying or just to read an old-fashioned detective book I’m including a couple of links. This one is cheaper but has a cover with a man lighting a cigarette. This one while it costs a few dollars more has a picture of a lady on the front, she’s holding a cigarette and looking at us over her shoulder. If you click through and look at both covers you’ll make me very happy. Buying through either of these links will give me a few cents towards my next coffee.

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