Saturday, 13 September 2014

Native Son by Richard Wright


Onomatopoeia doesn't pull one in the way it used to when we used to read Dr. Seuss as kids. This might not be an accurate representation of the opening line, as I couldn't be bothered to count how many i's there are in this word.

An alarm clock clanged in the dark and silent room. A bed spring creaked.

So we have the waking up or bed setting cliche. In all fairness this might not yet have been overdone by the 1940's, but it still betrays a lack of creativity. The short sentences help speed the pace which is existential, er, I mean, essential to getting a hook into a reader's brain.

First thing said:

"Bigger shut that thing off."

This comes while still on the first page. Dialogue early is nice as it means that the characters are going to be doing most of the talking and showing and telling and not the author - so to speak. It's a plus that the story begins with a scene. But there is little conflict in the first couple pages to pull the average reader in. However, characters interacting should hold most people's attention until the hook comes.

I hope.

This is part of the series: the top 100 novels from Daniel S. Burt's book called Novel 100, the top 100 novels of all time. There is debate of course as to what should be on that list, but his opinions are as good as any. Native Son ranks as the 80th best.

Verdict: Fail

Theodore Moracht

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