Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rotten English

Rotten English highlights the way that regional and non-standard English has oobtained increased importance and goes against the idea that things are more homogenous.

What would once have been pejoratively termed “dialect literature” has recently and decisively come into its own. Half of the novels that won the Man Booker prize over the past twelve years are in a non-standard English: the British Commonwealth’s most prestigious award honors passages like “It ain’t like your regular sort of day” (the opening line of Graham Swift’s Last Orders) and “What kind of fucken life is this?” (the persistent refrain of DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little). The reading public has been just as approving, eagerly devouring works like Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and Junot Díaz’s Drown. Many vernacular novels, Walker’s own as well as Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments, Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and Alan Duff’s Once Were Warriors, have become acclaimed movies. This success is by no means limited to fiction; vernacular poetry has flourished in venues like the Nuyorican Poets Café and HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. The aim of this collection is to represent that literary florescence, along with the earlier works that anticipated and enabled it. Rotten English celebrates the stunningly unanticipated ways in which English has changed as it grew into a global language.

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