When is usage of the “f-bomb” artistry, and when is it simply crass?
For many, it comes down to an “I know it when I see it” situation. There are times when an author uses expletives to make a point, to highlight a particular character’s vernacular, to show personality or expressive style. Then again, there are those books where all the four-letter (and then some) words are used to excess, creating a distraction rather than adding flavor to the narrative.
I’m not here to debate which is which. I’m no prude, but there are times when I roll my eyes so hard they practically get stuck, because the language I’m reading is so unnecessary to the story being told.
That said, when it’s right, it’s right… and I have never come across a better use of f-bombs than in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (review). The opening of chapter 11 is a masterpiece — and when I hear people complain about *salty* language in fiction and how awful it all is, I refer them to this book, this chapter, this page, because it’s left a huge impression on me. To me, this is great writing — so allow me my little indulgences as I treat you to the following excerpt:
[Chapter 11 – Told from Nick’s point of view]
Fuck her for getting in that cab. Fuck her for fucking with my mind. Fuck her for not knowing what she wants. Fuck her for dragging me into it. Fuck her for being such a fantastic kisser. Fuck her for ruining my favorite band. Fuck her for barely saying a word to me before she left. Fuck her for not waving. Fuck her for getting my hopes up. Fuck her for making my hopes useless. Fuck her for taking off with my fucking jacket.
Fuck me for always getting into situations like this. Fuck me for caring. Fuck me for not knowing the words that would’ve made her stay. Fuck me for not knowing what I want. Fuck me for wavering. Fuck me for not kissing her back the right way. Fuck me for getting my hopes up. Fuck me for not having more realistic hopes. Fuck me for giving her my fucking jacket.