The ‘F’ word – compare and contrast

(Before I get going, let me just say that the word in question will appear in this post as f*ck. This isn’t because I find said word offensive – as you’ll know if you’ve read much of my stuff – but because others might; plus, there’s a distinct risk of the unexpurgated form prompting unwelcome search results).

I’m currently reading JK Jeter’s Noir. I loved Jeter’s stuff in my youth, but have to confess that I haven’t actually read any for over a decade, so I was concerned whether this book would deliver. So far – and I’m only a third of the way in – it’s a ‘Yes’ and a ‘No’. His writing still amazes me, being dense, unexpected and visceral. The plot, however, is limping along rather too slowly and I’m having a lot of problems with the characters, who tend towards self-absorbed shadow-puppets. I half wonder if the point is that the reader doesn’t believe in or care about them, and I’m being an eejit because I don’t get just how clever Jeter is being.

However, the feature that keeps throwing me out of an otherwise highly immersive book is the use, or not, of the ‘F’ word. Jeter’s worlds are dark, streetwise and corrupt. They are archetypally f*cked up. And yet no one swears. I’ve counted one ‘shit’ so far, but whenever the word f*ck should appear, we get Jeter’s substitute term. And the word he uses is … connect. As in ‘connect you!’. To reduce my word de jour to a single letter: WTF? I can hardly think of a less suitable word: too long, too complex and with all the wrong resonances. Unless, of course, JK’s being too clever for l’il old me. Again.

The other explanation could be that there is a world-wide shortage of f*cks/f*cking because Richard Morgan has used more than his fair share. Morgan is another writer whose stuff I love and I enjoyed The Steel Remains a lot. Fantasy with balls in every sense of the word. I had no problem with the main f*ck-related feature of the book, the gay sex (again, no surprise there). I was, however, slightly perplexed by the swearing. Everyone says f*ck all the time. Even the f*cking emperor for f*ck’s sake. This is a powerful word and by making it the equivalent of a sarf London street-kid’s use of ‘innit’, I think a lot of the impact is lost.

(I’d be interested to know what other people think about this, but until I can find a way to enable comments on this blog without the avalanche of spam that resulted the last time I tried it, you’ll either have to email me direct using the ‘comment’ button, or mosey on over to Facebook or Twitter, where I’ll be posting links back to this post as soon as I’ve had a cup of tea – no, scratch that, it’s gone 7pm, so it’ll be a glass of wine, damnit.)

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