Tense Times: The Literary Spat of the Year
Grumpy Pullman was particularly scathing:
“This wretched fad has been spreading more and more widely. I can’t see the appeal at all. To my mind it drastically narrows the options available to the writer. When a language has a range of tenses such as the perfect, the imperfect, the pluperfect, each of which makes other kinds of statement possible, why on earth not use them?” He added: “I just don’t read present-tense novels any more. It’s a silly affectation, in my view, and it does nothing but annoy.”
Which prompted novelist Hari Kunzru (whose best work is very much in the past) to spring to a spirited defence of the here and now. He tweeted this morning:
Completely disagree w Pullman, Hensher on present tense. Present avoids lapidary fx of past, useful temporal slides
I wonder if anyone has stats on whether present tense becoming more common
Good luck with that Hari.
The Omnivore will of course keep you up-to-date with the latest twists and turns in this grammatical rollercoaster, but in the meantime we would love to know what’s your favourite tense and why. Please leave your comments below, giving an example if necessary (modern English only). We’ll get the ball rolling with our all-time fave: the Vespertine future.