Friday, 22 July 2016

Nantucket Sensory Impressions

SM Stirling, Island In The Sea Of Time (New York, 1998), pp. 9-11.

Ian Arnstein is a viewpoint character on pp. 9-10. Doreen Rosenthal takes over on pp. 10-11. How does Arnstein manage for sensory impressions? He sees fog, feels chill and smells a good seafood meal as he approaches John Cofflin House, a whaling magnate's mansion converted to an inn in the 1850s, which seems to be a fictional venue.

In fact, reflection on the sense of smell is used to make a keen historical observation. Although the place still looks the way it did when Melville etc knew it:

" probably smells a lot better these days. Must have reeked something fierce when the harborfront was lined with whale-oil refineries." (p. 10)

How many authors present the viewpoint character's thoughts in italics? I first became aware of this practice when reading Poul Anderson while still at school. I soon understand what Anderson was getting at. Italics without inverted commas meant our hero's thoughts. But another pupil had to ask me, "Who is saying this?"

So far, we have had an introduction to Nantucket but no indication as yet within the text that the characters or indeed the whole island are going to time travel - although the description of the town as frozen in time kind of leads into that idea. John Wyndham's "Stitch In Time" (see here) begins with the old woman sitting in a garden that is unchanged since her childhood...


S.M. Stirling said...

John Cofflin House is -slightly- fictionalized. See the Jared Coffin House... 8-) My wife and I honeymooned there in 1988, and I had the idea for the book some years later while visiting again.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And I liked how Poul Anderson used italics to indicate the internal thoughts of his characters. It helps to give background to stories where it simply would not be plausible to have people always saying exactly what they thought of other persons. And I'm glad this is something S.M. Stirling picked up from Poul Anderson.

I wish other authors would use italics to indicate internal thoughts.