The Library of English Babel

Jorge Luis Borges did a real list.  Unlike Borges, I am limited to one language—a fact that regularly frustrates me. But within my singular language, there are many voices, granted by the Muses and cultivated by the astounding organ that is the human brain.

These are not the only books with good narrative voices, just the ones that push English higher on its pedestal, making me temporarily contented to speak solely it.

Unfortunately, I can’t make it up to thirty-three books: please contribute.

Pidgin to put Chinglish to shame:
Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess

Kakoli couplets (a class of its own):
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

The child’s voice:
Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Room by Emma Donoghue
Mirrormask and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman

The narrators who like to hear themselves talk:
Nightwood Djuna Barnes
Weight Jeanette Winterson

Double voices:
The Vita Æterna Mirror Company: Mirrors to Last till Kingdom Come by Yann Martel (He does the same in Self, which is interesting, but I prefer the characters in Mirrors)

Brilliantly-twisted narrators:
Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant (for Winifred)
Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Nailing the unhinged voice:
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant (for Oddly)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

One response to “The Library of English Babel

  1. A Fine Balance?


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