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Monday, November 5, 2012

Steve Almond On Writing In Dialects: ‘Sometimes Ye Jist Dae It’

Ewen Bremner, Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle in the 1996 adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel Trainspotting. (Miramax)

In reviewing Irvin Welsh’s “Skagboys” for The New York Times Book Review, our literary critic Steve Almond started thinking about the use of dialects in fiction.

“Skagboys,” the prequel to Welsh’s 1993 novel “Trainspotting,” is set among young drug users in Edinburgh, Scotland and is written in their language without a glossary.

Here & Now literary critic Steve Almond. (Jesse Costa/Here & Now)

As Almond tells Here & Now’s Robin Young, he found the effect absolutely maddening at first, but he found the effort to understand the dialect ultimately rewarding.

“I think Welsh is very effectively able to mine the poetry of the way that these guys speak. And it’s quite beautiful. And it’s more authentic ’cause this is the way that the youths of Edinburgh speak,” Almond said.

Almond takes a look at how dialects and accents are used in such works as Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Henry Roth’s “Call it Sleep,” Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help” and Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”


  • Steve Almond, literary critic and an author of short stories, books and essays.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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