I was depressed thaT DCB Pierre won the Man Booker Prize with Vernon God Little partly because the extracts I'd read seemed badly written and partly because it was the latest in a series of non-British wins voted by British juries, making me suspicious that we're suffering from the "cultural cringe", whereby the foreign and exotic is bound to be better than the local and known.
Many critics in America have criticised Vernon God Little for its inaccuracies, I think suspecting that the Man Booker jury have it in for Americans in some way. In fact, Americans should probably take it as a compliment that the jury voted as winner the most American book they could get their hands on, as our literary establishment seems in thrall to the American voice. The real trouble is that they were probably handicapped from detecting nuances of voice, tone, and vocabulary in this book in the way they'd have done with a British book.
Why am I posting this on aue? Bcause I was interested in Michael Lind's critique of the book in "Prospect", which raises points of language about which I'd be interested to hear the views of auers. In particular, do you agree with the following analysis?
To begin with, Pierre has no idea how people in Texas talk. "To be fair, the rumours about ole Mr Deutschmann didn't say he'd actually dicked any schoolgirls... Real slime though, don't get me wrong." Maybe this is slang in Australia (Pierre's former home) or Ireland (his present home), but this is not how a teenage redneck in Texas sounds, even in parody.
Nor does he know what things are called in the part of America he writes about. "You should've seen Vaine at the hayride, she put away more corn than a truckload of empty Meskins." I've never heard the name "Vaine" as a female name; he seems to have derived it, like the name of his protagonist, from "Verne," which in American humour has become a stereotypical name for a rural, white southern man, like "Paddy" for the stage-Irishman of yesteryear. He fails to imitate folksy humour with his "truckload of empty Meskins," which just sounds weird (the message that ordinary Texans are anti-Mexican bigots is clear enough - though it is worth noting that liberal California has had far more bitter Anglo-Latino tensions than conservative Texas).

Then there's the hayride. My family has lived in the state since the mid-19th century, and I've never heard of a hayride in Texas. The hayride - a ride through the countryside, often by city folk or tourists, in a hay-filled wagon in autumn or winter - is a custom of New England and the upper midwest that is unknown in the south and southwest. Instead of hayrides, in Texas we have county fairs, livestock shows and rodeos. At these events vendors might sell popcorn, hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages and french fries - but they don't sell corn, either in kernel form or on the cob. Still, American heartlanders are said to be "corn-fed," so perhaps the corn reference indicates that Pierre has confused Texas with Iowa, having already mixed up Vermont and Texas in the hayride matter.Pierre's solecisms provide accidental comedy in this tedious book: "Bugs chitter in the willows, oblivious. The mantis rattles behind market stalls..." The mantis rattles? I had to read this several times before I realised that he was referring to cicadas. Praying mantises do not rattle; they make no noise at all. Pierre's botany is as inept as his zoology. Willows are imported exotics in semi-arid central Texas; if this is based on actual perception at all, he seems to have mistaken cypresses or mesquite trees for willow trees.

And a Texan would say "market booths," not "market stalls." When you put these mistakes together with his hayride error, it's as though, in a scene set in the Irish countryside near Dublin, Pierre has described men in tartan kilts taking part in the Highland Games while snakes croak loudly under the coconut trees.
Peasemarch.
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Then there's the hayride. My family has lived in the state since the mid-19th century, and I've never heard of ... is unknown in the south and southwest. Instead of hayrides, in Texas we have county fairs, livestock shows and rodeos.

My, my. Your part of Texas is missing out. In my part of Texas, Brazoria County, hayrides were very common, even to the extent that these mating precursors were often sponsored by churches. And, yes, with more coes that Rhode Island has people, Brazoria county certainly has county fairs, livestock shows, and rodeos.
At these events vendors might sell popcorn, hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages and french fries - but they don't sell corn, either in kernel form or on the cob.

I start to believe that your version of Texas is in some inner-city ghetto. In the real Texas, corn (maize) is certainly sold at these events.

Martin Ambuhl
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To say nothing of chicken-fried rattlesnake.

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Thus spake Martin Ambuhl:

His Texas is that of the writer of the review in Prospect. He's quoting.

Simon R. Hughes
I probably didn't make it clear enough that I was quoting from Michael Lind's review, but your reply is the very thing I'm interested in. If Lind is wrong in these details, and Pierre, who, though Australian, has lived in Texas, is right, then it undermines the gist of the review. Being British, I can't tell whether the voice of Vernon is accurate or not, but my instinct is that it's a mix of Aussie speech rhythms and pick'n'mix American words.
Pierre really would be a careless writer if he hadn't consulted Americans about the language. When I have an American character, I do that. I was advised by an American to change the word "baloney" to "bull", for example, amongst other suggestions. What non-American writers are bound to find difficult to appreciate is the way that terms differ from place to place in America.
Peasemarch.
I probably didn't make it clear enough that I was quoting from Michael Lind's review, but your reply is the ... writers are bound to find difficult to appreciate is the way that terms differ from place to place in America.

Changing "baloney" to "bull" has more to do with the coarseness of speech pertaining to a speaker, rather than to the place of origin of the speaker. Both words deal with the speaking of nonsense, and are perfectly well-understood across the continent. One is informal-slangy, and the other is rude and crude. Baloney, of course, is the euphemism for the cruder euphemism.
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more corn than a truckload of empty Meskins." I've never heard the

Two things:
'Corn' probably refers to corn liquor.
The pronunciation has always seemed to me closer to 'Metsikins'
Pierre really would be a careless writer if he hadn't consulted Americans about the language. When I have an American character, I do that. I was advised by an American to change the word "baloney" to "bull", for example, amongst other suggestions.

You could change "baloney" to "bull," but it's hardly necessary. Certainly the characterization of something as "baloney" is common in the US, especially when writing about the Bible belt sections, where the term "baloney" has lost its connection to "bull ***," but "bull" has not.

Martin Ambuhl
Baloney, of course, is the euphemism for the cruder euphemism.

Baloney, I say.
See the OED, which has it right:
'1935 E. Weekley Something about Words 64 Boloney must surely be for Bologna sausage (whence also the English polony, dating from the 18th century), influenced perhaps by the contemptuous sense associated with the German wurst.'
When Americans want to say '***', we say '***'. Yes, *** is something we know all about, right Cooper?

Charles Riggs
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