Divided in Death (book #68)

JD Robb, 2004.

I’m interested in the ways Nora Roberts manages to write (and publish) so much. One strategy, I think, is rather like that uses in oral storytelling. I read Walter Ong’s book on this when I was studying Beowulf, and I’ve thought about it a lot since then. The Wikipedia article on orality quotes him:

To solve effectively the problem of retaining and retrieving carefully articulated thought, you have to do your thinking in mnemonic patterns, shaped for ready oral recurrence. Your thoughts must come into being in heavily rhythmic, balanced patterns, in repetitions or antithesis, in alliterations or assonances, in epithetic and other formulary expressions … Serious thought is intertwined with memory systems.

See also h2g2’s article about the hero on the beach trope.

Two things to note about this. Firstly, saying that Robb / Roberts uses tropes, recurring situations etc, doesn’t necessarily dimish her literary value. Secondly, repeating patterns can be at any kind of scale – from repeating phrases like Homer’s “wine-dark sea” to the pattern that equates to a particular genre (crime fiction: crime happens, investigator usually as hero finds out what happens, crime is solved, criminal [usually] brought to justice).

It seems to me that in the In Death books Robb uses food and sex as ways to structure her main character’s day, and therefore to make it easier to write. I looked at Eve’s patterns of eating, drinking and sex in Divided in Death:

Day 1.
2am – sex
5am – two coffees
9am – “hoagies” (pork sandwiches), drinks, soy chips, dried apricots, chocolate cookies, all as take-out.
2pm – coffee, cookies
Evening – two coffees, steak, cabernet (wine), coffee, wine, chocolate

Day 2.
5am – sex
Soy burger
Chocolate cookie
Grilled pepper

Day 3.
Coffee and cookies
Soy dog (take-out)

Day 4.
Eggs and bacon, toast, coffee

(Not always possible to identify time of day.)

Food is a pretty big thing in In Death: Roarke is always trying to feed Eve; Peabody is always talking about food and wanting to stop for some (and a particular trope is Eve and Peabody offered drinks by suspects; Eve always refuses and Peabody is always annoyed about this); Feeney is identified by the bag of nuts he always has with him. Sex is also important, particularly as a demonstration of Eve and Roarke’s feelings for each other. I think it would also be worth logging sleep and showers in the same way.

Robb uses food and sex as way of structuring the days of her book. She doesn’t so rigorously use other details of mundanity in the same way (she could use visits to the loo, for instance, or the daily commute).

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One Response to “Divided in Death (book #68)”

  1. maglinty Says:

    Maybe Robb uses food and sex to regulate the day because they are both sensual acts / experiences (and of course, make better reading than visits to the loo!). Food and sex are often linked in literature and film; one is usually the precursor of the other. Both give opportunities for interaction between characters, emotional and conversational and so give the writer spaces in which to develop character and plot, perhaps.

    I have to say, Eve doesn’t have a very good diet. She doesn’t seem to be making much effort to get her ‘five a day’.

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