Over-animated

posted by Nick Hornby June 20, 2008 at 3:19 pm Books

The novel I have just finished reading is serious and intelligent. It also has the most peculiar flaw I’ve come across: its characters become wildly over-animated in conversational exchanges. The following reactions are drawn from a random sample of about a hundred pages, approximately a fifth of the novel, so there are loads more where these came from – and remember, these is no physical violence involved, despite all appearances to the contrary. “He grabbed the crown of his head”; “She fisted her skirt hem”; “He narrowed his eyes and pressed his cap” ; “M stumbled, his face twisted…M snorted and waved her off…She stood gaping…”; “Her neck jerked back, defensively”; “He thumbed his beard from underneath”; “She caught her hair. Her face flamed. She pulled at her shirt collar. She gathered her spray of hair and tied it up like a hank of rope” ; “The face yanked back, snorting”; “K palmed her own temples”; “he grimaced as if she’d kneed him” ;”She squinted at the possibility”; “His mouth hooked sideways”. After five hundred pages of this, I could see the characters only as sufferers from Tourette’s taking part in an Olympic boxing tournament; they flinch, snort and wince, their eyebrows shooting towards the heavens, at every available opportunity. I  am not the fittest talker in Britain, admittedly, but if I had to do all that every time I wanted to chat to someone, I would end up in hospital on a ventilator.