Monday, September 11, 2006

The Distinguished Guest

Finally! I finished Sue Miller’s The Distinguished Guest. It was bad. I did not like it. I would never recommend it. Well, not totally anyway.

There is one really interesting part of the novel. It begins on page 202, four pages into Chapter 14. Lily Maynard, one of our main characters (who is, The Distinguished Guest) is being interviewed by a student who is writing her thesis on “Integration”. Her name is Marcea McKendrick. She is witty, intelligent and black. As Marcea interviews Lily, a discussion begins about whether there is a “Black English” and a “White English”. It is really interesting. Can the English language be divided into Black and White? Is it more a difference between a rural and city or uneducated and educated English? Is it just the vernacular of different social groups? Being neither Black nor White, it is difficult for me to say.

Clearly there were differences in the way people in different communities spoke and still speak. There are many dialects of English, as well as French, Spanish and any number of languages. Quebec French is different from Paris French, which is different from Cajun French. I found this one part of the novel fascinating. Would I recommend the whole novel for just ten pages? I don’t know. Probably not. That one section is worth a read though. Stop off in a library or even spend some time in a bookstore if you are interested in the subject. In the end, I’m just glad reading The Distinguished Guest wasn’t a complete waste of time.

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