So, with that preface out of the way, let’s get my thoughts in finishing the first book of Le Morte Darthur (hereafter, LMD).
In one word: repetitive.
Early on in Mark Twain’s classic neo-Arthurian text A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, a character complains about Malory’s novel by ranting on the indistinct writing; events, dialog, and happenings all blend together thanks to the similar and drab language that one could hardly tell anything of the actual narrative. It all feels the same.
After finishing the first book, I can agree with this sentiment wholesale– it is very repetitive.
Considering that I still have twenty or so books to go, though, I best get used to it.
That being said, however, I am not sour about the repetitive writing because underneath Malory’s language is still an exciting plot. Sure, the long descriptions of kings and the men on horseback gets eye-rollingly annoying, but the story of Arthur’s battles and Merlin’s magic and mentorship are engaging as ever; roll in the fact that this is a seminal text in the Arthurian tradition, and it remains easy– most of the time– to maintain focus.
A reader, in sum, can still discern the narrative despite the language and conventions of the time. For as early as the book appeared, in the latter half of the medieval period, it is admirable that Malory was able to still write a narrative as extensive and complex as LMD. Sure, the lullabied voice doesn’t help but that is part and parcel of the engagement as is the lack of double-quotations; it is just something you have to deal with in reading since, otherwise, the narrative would have been far larger than it already is. I would take a thousand page book over a four-thousand page one, no matter how much more entertaining the language may have been. Perhaps you see differently but if we also consider the fact that paper (parchment) was not exactly an inexpensive commodity when Malory was writing, I think, all-in-all, Malory performed well.
Regardless, I enjoyed my time in reading book one of LMD. Epic, magical, and familiar, Malory’s rendition is something which I will be sure to keep you folks ahead on as I plow through this behemoth. Stay tuned for more updates.