Delicious descriptions: Louise Mack’s dialogue and satire
Over Christmas, during one of my conversations with Son Gums, he commented how he tires of meaningless conversations, conversations, for example, in which people discuss a television series they’ve seen but say nothing of note. He mimicked the sort of conversation he meant … well, imagine my surprise when, in one of those surprising synchronicities, I came across exactly that sort of conversation a few days later in Louise Mack’s The world is round (my review). Here is part of it – the two speakers are at a social gathering, and published author Musgrave is eavesdropping:
It was the girl who pushed the ball this time. ‘Have you ever read a book called Lost in the Zodiac?’
‘No, never read it. Who’s it bai?’
‘I don’t know. I never look who a book’s by. Do you?’
‘No. Tell you an awfully naice book. Read it on board coming out, Miss Nobody of Nowhere.’
‘I haven’t read it. Is it good?’
‘Very good. Very er–er–interestin’.’
‘Is it? I must get to that. Do you know who it’s by?’
‘One of those French fellows, I think. Sounds like a Frenchman. One of those detective plots, you know.’
‘Oh yes, I know. Like that book everyone was reading the other day, I forget the name of it.’
‘Yes. Sort of detective yarn you know. Very good.’
‘There’s a book called A Painted Polyanthus’ – Musgrave gave a sigh for a man he knew who would have revelled in this with a joy as keen as his own. ‘They say it’s very good. I haven’t read it yet.’
‘Neither have I.’
Musgrave was disappointed.
‘Have you read Speech in Passing?’
‘Oh yes, I read that. I cried over it.’
‘No? Did you? Bai Jove!’ leering sentimentally.
‘Yes, I couldn’t help it.’
‘The “sulky man” – he was a rum cove, wasn’t he? He was funny wasn’t he.’
‘I don’t think he was a sulky man at all.’
‘Neither do I. The only called him that,’ boldly.
Her voice changed.
‘”And Ida died,”‘ she quoted, in tones that suggested to you that she was just going to burst into tears.
Musgrave turned his head to see how she was looking. Just as he thought. Her head was a little on one side, her eyes were staring sadly straight back in front of her, and her mouth was doing its best to look pensive and full of feeling.
‘”And Ida died,”‘ she said again.
That was evidently the one point about the story that had struck her most impressively. Unfortunately hers was not the face to express the feeling she would fain have conveyed …
You can see why those early critics praised her dialogue and satire, can’t you? It’s quite delicious.
Note: The strange spellings, like “bai”, are attempts to phonetically capture the Australian accent – and is clearly being satirised.