Go Back   Palimpsest > User Forums > General Chat

Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 25th Sep 2010, 15:26   #1
Junior Palimpsestarian
is a Regular
chrisphillips's Avatar
Join Date: 14 Apr 2010
Location: Northern Ireland
Posts: 143
Default Fiction written in the present tense

Browsing The Guardian book blog I happened upon an article on the topic of a perceived modern trend towards the present tense. Its full content is here (quite short):

Philip Pullman is scathing. For my part, I am struggling to think of instances where the present tense has significantly added anything to a book. My current read, Lennon's Mailman, flits between present and past and because it is a novel based largely on reflections, it works. But in Coetzee's Disgrace, for instance, I really couldn't see its merit.

What are the views of the Palimpsphere? Can the present tense enable greater penetration of a character? Make you really feel the immediacy of the events of the book? Or is it a trivial matter making little difference either way? One view is that in the past tense, the characters are the author's prisoners, whereas in the present tense characters are equal to you and alongside you. I'm not sure I concur, because no matter what the tense the events of a book are still whatever the author decides they're going to be.

I toss it in for debate...
Reading Bruce Chatwin - Utz
chrisphillips is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 25th Sep 2010, 16:20   #2
Senior Palimpsester
suckles at the teat of the Palim-God
Ang's Avatar
Join Date: 25 Oct 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 3,199
Default Re: Fiction written in the present tense

Hm, it seems it was sparked by criticism of the Man Booker shortlist this year.

I can't say I'm bothered one way or the other. Good writing is good writing, whatever the tense the author decides to use. Galgut, McCarthy, and Donoghue have created three very distinct books. I can't say I noticed that they're all using the same tense! Is Pullman perhaps upset that his latest novel wasn't on the list?
2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008=post 80611
Ang is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th Sep 2010, 20:16   #3
Senior Palimpsester
has the freedom of Palimp City
gil's Avatar
Join Date: 21 May 2003
Location: Farnham, UK
Posts: 3,288
Default Re: Fiction written in the present tense

There's one [and a half] good case[s] to justify present tense.

Anyone writing in the first person implies, if he writes in the past tense, that he survived long enough to write a book about the events. If the author wants to imply that the 1st person narrator may not have survived [or if it's a diary], then the present tense has a place.

I think 3rd person narrator with present tense needs justifying - for example, to clarify between past imperfect, past, and pluperfect tenses in use in the rest of the book.
gil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th Sep 2010, 20:23   #4
Senior Palimpsester
suckles at the teat of the Palim-God
bill's Avatar
Join Date: 12 Dec 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 2,951
Default Re: Fiction written in the present tense

Gil has listed the only practical uses. Other than those, I've never seen the point, and have always been slightly annoyed by it, viewing it, as I do, as a pointless affectation. But if the book is otherwise good, I honestly don't really care.
The Kind of Face You Hate
Currently reading: Various
bill is offline   Reply With Quote

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
A Month of Horror '09 bill Book Reviews 112 23rd Sep 2010 9:34
Orange Prize for Fiction 2010 dovegreyreader General Chat 66 12th Jun 2010 22:33
Jonathan Coe / B.S. Johnson Wavid Book Reviews 49 21st Apr 2010 0:05
Book Awards for Fiction aquablue General Chat 17 8th Dec 2007 16:51
American Fiction Wavid General Chat 1 26th Nov 2003 10:09

All times are GMT +1. The time now is 4:39.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.