Wow, so this is going to take a little while.
I took The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth with me to work today to start reading on my lunch break. It is not a book that is good for reading on half-hour lunch breaks while eating. Not that the book puts one off eating, only that eating while reading this book requires you either a) don’t pay complete attention to the book so you can enjoy your lunch or b) don’t pay attention to your lunch, how it tastes, whether it is actually all making it into your mouth and not down the front of your shirt or all over your face.
Divided attention will not work wth this book.
Nor will short reading sessions. This is because the book is written in an “updated” form of old English. Before beginning to read I thought, really how hard could it be? It’s updated after all. I expected modern spelling, some archaic words, something more akin to reading Shakespeare than Beowulf or Chaucer.
Oh silly me and my assumptions that were all very quickly blown to pieces. Here is the second paragraph of the book’s beginning, the second because the first is too short to really give you the flavor:
when i woc in the mergen all was blaec though the night had gan and all wolde be blaec after and for all time. a great wind had cum in the night and all was blown then and broc. none had thought a wind lic this colde cum for all was blithe lifan as they always had and who will hiere the gleoman when the tales he tells is blaec who locs at the heofon if it brings him regn who locs in the mere when the there seems no end to its deopness.
There are paragraphs but no capital letters, no commas, only the occasional period. After a bit the rhythm is song like, there is even a kind of chorus that chimes in with short almost chants. It is slow reading puzzling out the words but after a bit they start to make more sense. It feels kind of like working out a code in some ways. Or a foreign language.
My lunch was over just as I began to feel like I was getting in the flow of the words. Rereading them is easier and faster, they make more sense.
So I brought the book back home with me. Will only read it when I have at least an hour to spend which essentially means it has been relegated to early evenings and weekends. I don’t know if I can finish before my three-week library loan period. Maybe I will have to buy my own copy? Maybe it will be that good. I’ll know for sure in a week, after I have spent more time with the book.