Friday, 30 March 2007

Riddley Walker

I had an interesting e-mail from Frieda Ryan of the Red Kettle Theatre Company, Waterford,about a planned late 2007 production of the Russell Hoban novel Riddley Walker. It is to be "innovative and original ... very visual,full of movement, true to the language and staged in a specially adapted space", and she's seeking to contact fans who'd consider travelling to such a production.
      This inspired me to re-read the book, a post-apocalypse novel set in Kent. It isn't, however, standard post-apocalpyse SF, but a cult literary novel written entirely in a worn-down future English, where myth and fable mix with garbled scientific phrases whose meaning has been forgotten. To get some of the flavour, you can visit Bloomsbury's Hoban microsite, which includes commentary by Hoban and the first two chapters.
      Riddley Walker Annotations, Eli Bishop's collaborative resource unravelling the linguistic references, such as the corrupted Kent placenames, is also worth exploring. Hoban's particular skill in Riddley Walker is, in my view, the plausibility of his future English, which displays the same kind of garbling that has already turned "a napron" into "an apron". Many of the Riddleyisms, such as "setting the red cord straight" are similar to 'eggcorns', a term coined by linguist Geoff Pullum for a particular kind of malapropism involving a switch to a wrong, but logical, alternative that is rapidly and widely assimilated into general language.
- Ray

Addendum, Aug 2008: Red Kettle have a couple of YouTube videos of the production online here.
- Ray