I’m having great fun learning to use style as a form of literary allusion, not just as a way of conversing with the gods (or perhaps hoping some of their greatness will rub off), and decidedly not as a quiz to test your memory or the breadth of your reading, but as way to add thematic richness to the text. Here’s a short example from Corvus. Take a shot at identifying its antecedent, though you’ll need to read my novel, I reckon, to understand the full import of such borrowing:

The limbs above her creaked in a gust of wind, splattering her with loosened snow. By the time she brushed herself off, Zach had halted by a tombstone. She watched as he cleared the top of the rectangular slab. Watched as he traced his gloved fingers along what must be a carved epitaph. Watched as he pulled off her elastic, tipped back his head, and held his arms out cruciform, an angular scarecrow in a scrim of skirling snow. The headstones like godswept windrows the cold and dead of a winter dusk. His hair blowing wildly. A landscape empty of colour, empty of days; deathwrought.


6 thoughts on “Is it plagiarism, cento, or prose riff?

  1. Robert Wells 15 years ago

    To add to the fray – try to figure out who stole this from who?

    She laid herself flat-out on the bed so close to her husband that she could feel his warmth but not touching, and closed her eyes. Slumberous flakes of snow, silver and dark, fell over her body, Garett’s body, and all the sleeping and sleepless bodies of the Hotel Boulderado. It truly was snowing everywhere. Snowflakes from stars and moons everywhere falling like comets or dust or nothing. Falling on us all. Falling upon the beautiful and the ugly, the real and the counterfeit, the living and the dead.

  2. Lee 15 years ago

    Hi John, no it’s not Bronte – far more recent!

  3. Lee 15 years ago

    Hi Nick, the list is growing. Do you know what I’m learning from the exercise? That our debts are far more diverse and inescapable than we consciously realise. No, it’s not Hopkins, but thanks for reminding me of him. And in fact I must order a copy of Francine Prose’s Goldengrove straightaway, which my husband has promised me as a birthday gift.

  4. Nick Green 15 years ago

    My guess (though the similarities come more towards the end) is Gerard Manley Hopkins – though of course he was writing poetry, not that I think there’s a clear dividing line between poetry and prose.

    It’s funny, incidentally – Hopkins is someone I loathed and laughed at at school, and now I think he was a genius. It just shows how one can grow up.

  5. John Baker 15 years ago

    Feels a little like Bronte. Though that one word -deathwrought – puts into a whole other genre. OK, I’ll be patient and wait until you tell us.