Friday, December 4, 2015

Speaking of Nessie...

4th December 2015

Outlander is a very well researched book with a compelling story line, and Scots should be very grateful to Gabaldon for taking Scotland on this wild literary ride. That's my disclaimer.
This is my defense: I think the reason I stick so close to home with my books is that I don't feel comfortable trying to convey the idiom of a culture I am not intimately familiar with. For instance, I would never embark on a story about the American South, because that rhythm of speaking just isn't available to me. I know what it sounds like, and I could sort of imitate it, but unless I lived there for a lengthy time, I wouldn't be able to access that particular cultural idiom. I would be depending on caricature.

I was born and grew up in Scotland, so I have an advantage when it comes to Scottish dialogue.  I know the metre and rhythm of Scottish speak, what the silences mean, what the glances between Scots amount to. I know, for instance, that beneath their thousand year old allegiance to the church lies a deeper more persistent drone, that what they really fear is themselves and their own history.

Scottish dialogue that borders on caricature blows pleasingly past the American readership, of course, but it clangs in the ear of the Scot. Not that Scots are averse to Gabaldon and her Scottish tale. Far from it. They are putting on bus tours to the locations of Claire and her young Highland buck. Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour! You see coaches in the narrow lanes of Scotland with Outlander on the front as though it were a destination in itself. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it's not the English woman in the story who is the outlander, but the Scots themselves.

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