Tuesday, March 2, 2010


quirky |ˈkwərkē|
characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits

It strikes me that I have a couple of quirks. 'Oh, just two, I beg to differ,' say all who know me.

I've had two odd reading experiences in a row. I don't need to mention the titles since the authors are alive.

The first one was a biography. I think perhaps not too much is known about the subject, and often the author would say 'may' or 'probably' about various incidents. For example the person 'may' have seen a particular movie that night. I couldn't stand it. I know that biographers don't know all the facts, but I'd rather the author limit the book to what is known.

The other book was a memoir and it was written in the present tense. Is that the right term? Something like, 'Nan and I are eating our dinner of potatoes and carrots.' I would rather read, 'Nan and I ate a dinner of potatoes and carrots.' Tom told me this is a common way of writing, but I sure don't like it. I don't even like an oral story told to me that way. If it happened in the past, I like to see or hear the past tense.

So there you have two quirks of Nan.


  1. I agree with you on both, Nan.

    Writing a memoir in the present tense is like writing on twitter. LOL.

    And if you aren't sure about something, why write about it?

  2. I don't think that's quirky I think it's just application of sound judgment (does that make me quirky? ...lol)

  3. The first one I completely agree with! If I am reading with a view of knowing the subject, why would I want to rely on conjecture? The second I haven't really thought of but I have a feeling this will be in the back of my mind the next time I pick up a memoir:)

  4. Hi Nan -

    Lovely and intrieguing blog post...

    Re memoir - i think I would be totally thrown if I picked up a memoir and it was written in the present tense - it would be a very strange reading experience. having said that - I enjoy memoir writing but it can be *very* variable.

    Re biography - I think that it always has to be clear what is established fact and what is supposition - but I take the view that a bit of supposition is ok - in fact it is the life blood of historical enquiry - I know from my own research that sometimes there is conflicting evidence about what a person has done/thought - and I think that it makes for a better book if a biographer gives time to considering - well did they do A or did they do B. It is an interesting question though and I must say that recently i read a biography whih had me crawling up the walls with the amount of unfounded guess work....

    interesting post - happy quirky reading,


  5. I'm with you too, Nan. In general I'm not keen on books written in the present tense, though I've read one or two that were excellent. Mostly though, I prefer past tense. It's probably a personal preference thing, as present tense books seem to be in fashion just now.

  6. I so agree about the present tense!ge

  7. I agree - the first sounds irritating and the second downright weird.

    It's good to be quirky!

  8. I agree totally about 'may' and 'probably'. The present tense I often find awkward, but it does sometimes work in fiction - there has to be a reason for it, though!

    Btw, I love the picture of the bench and fence in the snow.

  9. Well, I'll tell you, I'm thrilled that anyone responded to this post, but I'm not really surprised. We readers do love to read of such things. I was glad to know I'm not the only one. Thanks so much for writing.

  10. I'm with you all the way. Does that make both of us quirky?

  11. Your quirks may just indicate common sense, Nan! Biographers have no right to play with what they "think might be the truth." It's not fair to the subject, who didn't ask for the book in the first place.

    And present tense is irritating to read for some unknown reason. It is to be used sparingly, for effect, and it takes a master to do it well. I permit it only under those circumstances.

  12. Hey commonweeder, I love your new picture! Maybe not so quirky or unusual according to all these comments. :<)

    Mary Lois, oh that's a much better way to put it!

  13. Oh yes. I read a biograpy of Clarice Cliff a while ago and it was all - perhaps she walked down this street, etc etc. I couldn't finish it. I think there is a particular art to life writing.

  14. Vintage Reader, the biography I am currently reading does this a bit, but I'm able to bear it because it isn't so prevalent as in the one I was referring to in this post. The author also works at backing up her assumption better. I now must look up Clarice Cliff - I've not heard of her, but what a beautiful name.


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