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Olga Cox-Cameron – The Way we Talk – Psychotic Language and The Butcher Boy


THE LETTER 17 (Autumn 1999) pages 38-62


One of the most striking features of The Butcher Boy is that it is a novel  sustained almost  entirely  by one  voice.     True,  this is a voice which exists in a kind of antiphonal relationship  to the other voices in the world  where  the antagonist finds himself.   But in contrast  to the nineteenth century  novel, there  is no perceived  need  to establish  the novelistic character   in   a   densely   created   representational world. Everything is carried  by the voice.  Perhaps for this reason it is a voice which  is  very  distinctively   textured.  Like other  twentieth  century novels, it is a voice which is inserted  into regional rhythms  and a novel which  is  almost   impossible   to  read  without   the  reader   somehow entering these rhythms.   One thinks of other recent twentieth  century novels,  for  example,  the  award   winning  recent novel  by  Kathleen Fergusson,  Maids Tale or the celebrated  or notorious  Trainspotting or indeed any of Roddy Doyle’s novels.  This luring of the reader  right inside  the rhythms of speech  creates a seductive  effect  which is very different, for example, to the seductive  effect of Dickensian  description. At one level, of course, the fictional world is always a world sustained by a voice.  If the voice were to stop, the world would cease to be.  So the fictional enterprise presentifies,  in a way, a different version of the psychotic  dilemma  as described  so vividly  by Schreber.   For Schreber too it was  absolutely  necessary for the voices to continue.

The Way we Talk – Psychotic Language and The Butcher Boy

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