Scott Turow is about the only modern “Best Selling” novelist who I will read. I give him credit for teaching me how to write a mystery/suspense novel, and to some extent how to write a novel at all. So while in the Hong Kong Airport, I found myself without anything to read. So I picked up a copy of Turow’s newest novel, Innocent, the sequel to his first novel, Presumed Innocent. I’ll write about the novel later, because I have much to say. For now, I want to focus on one sentence that Turow wrote in the following short paragraph:
This is the character Nat, son of the main character Rusty. He is talking about his father’s computer skills. He was asked, “Are you computer literate?” And this is the question he appears to be answering, but isn’t.
There are two ways the last sentence can be written:
- I know a lot more than him.
- I know a lot more than he.
The first sentence means, “I know a lot more about computers than I know about my father.” The second sentence means, “I know a lot more about computers than my father knows about computers.”
Clearly, when speaking, only a pedant like me would say, “I know a lot more than he.” So maybe Turow wrote the sentence that way because that’s the way people talk.
But I’m not sure. All of Turow’s books are fundamentally about how unknowable everyone is. And this theme is very much on display in Innocent. Nat does not really know his father. So the question is whether Turow is such a good writer that he knew he was doing that when he wrote that line.
“I know a lot more about computers than I know about my father.”