Friday, April 13, 2007

Tish! That's French!

GalleyCat's report on an article (that originally appeared in The Bookseller, whose online subscription is veddy expensive* and thus to whom I cannot link) about books that prosper on either side of the Atlantic but sink when they venture across reminds me of Ben Brantley's recent NYT piece exposing our country's fetish for English accents ("so silken, so stately, so, well, so darned cultured") that I have long accused Hazel Rochman of trading upon. I like the quote about The Thirteenth Tale: "There are two incidences towards the end where they drink cocoa. I haven't drunk cocoa since I was a child. That picture of cocoa-drinking England only appeals outside England." It also makes me wonder if this is the reason that Donna Leon's Venice-set mysteries starring the to-die-for Commissario Guido Brunetti have not, according to Wikipedia, ever been translated into Italian.

*from the same company that brings you the similarly overpriced Kirkus Reviews.

12 comments:

Brian Mandabach said...

As a teen, I was a horrible Anglophile, and after reading the Importance of Being Ernest, I actually took to having cucumber sandwiches with tea.

Do the English still have an affection for Cowboy Americans? I'm not sure, especially after all these years of our Cowboy President.

But American kids have not lost thier affection for affecting English accents. I'd like to think that might help the sales of Aidan Chambers. I don't really hear Cordelia Kenn's voice in accent, and though there are times when a Britishism will throw me, she doesn't sound done up in phoney dialect the way the dialogue in Harry Potter movies often do. What I do hear in Cordelia, which we could hear more of on either side of the pond, is a young woman with a free mind and spirit, and a deep loving passion not only for life, but for the language that shapes it.

Andy Laties said...

But in Disney movies the hero and heroine always have a California surfer accent, while it's the VILLAINS who have those silky British accents.

Monica Edinger said...

Where'd that cocoa drinking quote from? I just started listening to The Thirteenth Tale and the cocoa drinking seems a particular quirk of one of the characters as well as a bit of a tweak on the part of the author as to the "typical" British penchant for tea. For example, at one point, the character very purposely pushes aside the tea stuff for her cocoa packages. Feels very intentional. Boy, I wish I hadn't seen this post because I suspect I'm going to now overfocus on that darned cocoa as I move through the book!

Monica Edinger said...

Never mind. I reread your post and have my answer. Lousy reading on my part, I know, but that first sentence is a tad...um...(do I dare say this to the editor in chief of a literary journal?.... yes I do...) daunting (comments someone who talks and writes that way all the time:).

Roger Sutton said...

The cocoa thing reminds me Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie mysteries, starring a bluestocking philosopher in contemporary Edinburgh, and while Isabel is supposed to be in her mid-forties, the entire characterization makes her very old-ladyish, part of which, I suppose, could be meant to indicate a certain bookishness on her part (like the Thirteenth Tale heroine), but mostly it seems designed to play into our sentimental ideas of what a well-bred Scottish maiden aunt would be like.

Monica--I rewrote the preceding as ONE SENTENCE in your honor! ;-)

rindawriter said...

The only English folk I've known in real life and in novels also drink or drank....tea....

Cocoa was for the nursery set.

Anonymous said...

I wish the ideas Europeans have about America were as quaint as cocoa! I saw a doc on the BBC about 10 years ago about how Americans "worship" fast food, as evidenced by the number of fast food restaurants and the Colonel Sanders museum in Sanders' hometown. Weirder still, the author compared the musuem to a shrine.

I've never heard of British adults drinking cocoa, always tea. I attributed Margaret's (the character in The Thirteenth Tale) cocoa drinking as a childlike quality rather than a British one. (Well, she still lives with or next to her parents, it's not such a stretch!)

Rose

Anonymous said...

I thought Leon had herself refused to let the books be translated into Italian.

Anonymous said...
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Roger Sutton said...

I did see on Leon's publisher's site an interview with her in which she said her books were not and would not be published in Italian and she was glad about that because she didn't want to be famous where she lived. (Snort. What's that line about never meeting an author you admire? ;-) But I thought the interview dodged the question of whether such publication was ever a prospect.

Elissa said...

Similarly -- I once worked on a reading comprehension program, in collaboration with an Australian publisher. One of their tasks was to write short reading passages for our audience of American elementary school children. Several--not just one or two--of the passages, written by different authors, ended with the characters enjoying a pleasing meal of pancakes. And when not pancakes, pumpkin pie.
-ERG

jessmonster said...

Oh, the cocoa drove me crazy, and I happen to love cocoa. (And where was she getting milk? Was she just using water? Because that's tacky.) On a similar note, I was struck by the fact that neither reader on the audiobook is actually British - and their accents, to my American ears, sounded awfully fake. I wondered if the same version was tolerated by British listeners?

As my word verification failed, I discovered that there is in fact a different version in the UK - read by Juliet Stevenson.