I received a text from my other half this morning which read:
My new favourite line from a book: “the birds in the oak trees knew nothing of totalitarian regimes or the cares of humans.”
On one hand, this put me in mind of Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
Brian: Consider the lilies…
Woman: Consider the lilies?
Brian: Oh, well, the birds then.
First Man: What birds?
Brian: Any birds!
Second Man: Why?
Brian: Well, have they got jobs?
Third Man: Who?
Brian: The birds.
Second Man: Have the birds got jobs?
Fourth Man: What’s the matter with him?
Third Man: He says the birds are scrounging!
Brian: Oh no, no, the point is: the birds, they do alright, don’t they?
Fourth Man: Well, and good luck to them!
Second Man: Yeah, they’re pretty!
On the other hand, it threw me on to the horns of a furious dilemma.
Well, not that furious. But it made me wonder, should it give me hope that lines of prose like that one make it into print? Or should I find it depressing?
Surely, if people are publishing books with lines of prose that are laughably awful, someone at some point will publish one of my books, which are at times not too bad at all. There again, maybe readable books in which incidents of humour are deliberate rather than unintentional are not what the modern publisher is looking for? Based on the evidence above, it’s hard to tell.
Still, I’ve no right to fall into a quandary over this. After all, my favourite line in a book comes from a Torchwood story by Dan Abnett, and was almost certainly not intended to be as funny as I found it. The line in question is:
“Tosh’s new leather jacket was very cool beans.”
How that got past first draft stage, never mind editors, proof readers and the like, I do not know. Perhaps they liked it because it encapsulates the way people really speak an’ that – even though it wasn’t presented in the context of character dialogue?
Or maybe they didn’t notice, because Abnett churns out about a book a week into the assorted Doctor Who and Warhammer empires and there simply isn’t time to read them all. Either way, I love it, and as such am in no position to badmouth poor prose.
But that doesn’t mean I wish to write it. Not deliberately, anyway…