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Is Writing In The Present Tense Past It?

September 15, 2010

Philip Pullman, left, and Philip Hensher have criticised the Man Booker Prize shortlist.

Some authors think so, going so far as to criticize the finalist list for the Booker Prize as having to many present tense novels.

Philip Pullman and Philip Hensher criticise Booker Prize for including present tense novels [From the Telegraph] By Laura Roberts

Leading authors have criticised the Man Booker Prize shortlist because half of it is made up of novels written in the present tense.

Philip Pullman and Philip Hensher claimed that the use of present tense is becoming a cliche.

Pullman, the best-selling children’s author, was scathing over its use.

He said: “This wretched fad has been spreading more and more widely. I can’t see the appeal at all. To my mind it drastically narrows the options available to the writer. When a language has a range of tenses such as the perfect, the imperfect, the pluperfect, each of which makes other kinds of statement possible, why on earth not use them?”

He added: “I just don’t read present-tense novels any more. It’s a silly affectation, in my view, and it does nothing but annoy.”

The six authors listed for this year’s prize are Peter Carey, Andrea Levy, Howard Jacobson, Tom McCarthy, Damon Galgut and Emma Donoghue. The first three authors’ novels are in the past tense while the others written in the more “fashionable” style.

Hensher, whose novel The Northern Clemency was Booker shortlisted in 2008, said that writers were mistaken by thinking that using the present tense would make their writing more vivid. He said: “Writing is vivid if it is vivid. A shift in tense won’t do that for you.”

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