Pet Peeves

Dialogue-less Books

Here’s a pet peeve of mine: dialogue-less books.

What triggered this post is the novel Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli. However, a popular example of this is Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. The Road is science fiction dressed up in literary snobbery (another pet peeve for later), but it eschews the traditional dialogue format.

Here’s an example:

Note at the end of the paragraph, there’s a “he said.” There’s a least a gender assigned to the speaker, though it isn’t unique. There’s a “he” and “the boy.” Given the paragraph, I would assume father and son, or at least adult male and young boy.

Then a paragraph break and (apparently?) more dialogue. But no indicators of the speaker. It is easy to assume this is a back-and-forth, and in this very short snapshot, it becomes obvious which person is speaking when.

However, for me (and remember this is a pet peeve, a personal vexation), I’ve already spent too much time trying to ensure I understand who is speaking that I’m bounced out of the story’s reality and into my own. Which is not where I want to be when I read; I want to be in the story’s world, not mine.

To me, this is lazy writing. It leaves the characters as stiff, cardboard cutouts, rather than real, living beings. I don’t understand what this brings to a story, other than tripe snobbery, an attempt to take what should be an excellent, post-apocalypse story and “dress it up” for the literary, “genre-writing isn’t real writing” snobs.