How we talk to ourselves, The Little Bride, and strange facts
Yesterday, I told my creative writing students to close their eyes and listen to how they talk to themselves. Do they use pronouns? Or, do they use imperatives? Most of them said they dropped pronouns, that they said things like, “Time to get up.” or “Don’t eat so much.” But they also used “You” to scold themselves, as though they were speaking to a child, “Why did you do that?” or “Why are you so lazy?”
This all came about because we are reading Anna Solomon’s The Little Bride which begins without any pronouns, as though the character is talking to herself. I loved this book — its language, its strangeness, its capturing of place and character — when I first read it, but now that I am teaching it, I am struck by how skillful it is, how Anna puts us into the mind of her main character, Minna, right away. My students like Minna. And they like the book because of the strange things they are learning: Minna is in the middle of being examined by a team of doctors and nurses — a “Look” – to see if she qualifies for immigration to America as a bride. This gave me the opportunity to point out that readers like to learn new things, that even in fiction, research is a great tool, and that it is a good idea to collect strange information.
For example, did you know that during World War II, the English considered “poisoning” Hitler with estrogen? I might have already written about this, but I can’t get over the idea of estrogen as a weapon. They thought it would weaken him, lessen his aggression, make him more “feminine.”