Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Olive Kitteridge | Lolita | Linguistics

I finished reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout today, and have since added it (in imaginary pen) to my imaginary ‘Favourite Books Ever’ list. Oh man, I loved this book. It reminded me of Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain, although it’s possible the two had nothing in common except for the fact that I seriously loved that short story, too (also they’re both written by women, and feature two-word titles. And their first and surnames include the same vowels! I’m giving up now). Strout’s book is made up of chapters offering small glimpses into various peoples’ lives, with the character of Olive Kitteridge and the town in which she lives as the common threads that run through each and tie them all together in one perfect novel; sometimes Olive is the main character in the chapter, and sometimes she’s not. 

In my review of The Descendants, I wrote that the movie was “funny and painful and heartwarming and heartbreaking all in one, as life tends to be,” and although it must appear terribly lazy copying descriptions from previous blog posts, this one fits so well I‘m just going to go ahead and do it. Here’s one of my favourite quotes from the book:
There were days – she could remember this – when Henry would hold her hand as they walked home, middle-aged people, in their prime. Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful? Most likely not. People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it.

This book is a rare 5-out-of-5er. I loved it.

I borrowed Olive Kitteridge because I spotted it displayed on a rack at the library and recognised the title, having heard about the HBO miniseries. I was on the lookout for another novel to read because I started on Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (thanks to Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales’ repeated recommendations of it on their [hilarious, wonderful] podcast Chat 10 Looks 3) and realised I probably wouldn’t make it all the way through (it makes me feel ill. I don’t think I can cope with illness for 330 more pages, brilliant though it may be). I’m disappointed, because this is the opening of the book:
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

Is that last one not the best sentence you’ve ever read in your entire life? I KNOW. Alas: reading a man speak about his attraction to pre-pubescent girls is too nauseating for me to fully appreciate whatever linguistic awesomeness Nabokov has up his sleeve in the pages following the first 30 (which is as far as I made it). I’m (grumpily) giving up.


Speaking of linguistics and tongue-tapping, I’ve been noticing the way some people say ‘thr’ with a tap, as in (for ‘three’) th-[tap]-ree. Some people tap for other ‘thr’ words, too, like ‘through’. I don’t tap. I find it much harder to include a tap than to just put the ‘th’ and the ‘ree’ right next to each other. Heres an audio file to demonstrate the difference, just because I can: 


The lecturer for my last class regularly tapped for ‘thr’ words (being Statistics, she said ‘three’ quite a bit), and since then I’ve heard it everywhere. It’s like I’ve grown a ‘thr-tap’ radar.


  1. I am so keen to talk olive kitteridge with you. I didn't like it that much when I read it!
    Also, you're such a linguist nerd. I love it.

  2. Leigh Sales taps when saying 'three'! I just remembered!

  3. I just tried out the 'thr' thing. It feels to me like a roll of the tongue. I might have done both depending on a whole variety of factors, but now I won't be able to not think of it. Thrust!