Past Tense vs. Present Tense

I notice that many people are putting out books in present tense these days. My mom just read one and said the setting was antique and the modern tense was jarring. It struck me, books from over a hundred years ago are all written in past tense omniscient.  Writing a book in a modern way while trying to impart the flavor of the past would be difficult. Perhaps that was why the author chose to write it that way.

Present tense, sounds like this:

Sweat trickles down his face, the salt in it, causes the crack in his lip to burn. He winces at the pain of it. His cousin Jane enters the courtyard and says, “You stink.”

French novels are written in present tense, as are Russian and Spanish.  My mom probably has more tolerance for the style because my mother reads those languages, whereas I do not. To me present tense sounds very immature, like a little kid telling you a story about the people she met at school today. “She says, he has to go to the office, and then I say….”  Its cute when a child abuses the language its less cute when adults do. Which is why it is not my favorite. In fact when I pick up a book and find it in present tense I put it down after reading a sentence or two. I know I’ll spend all my time irritated by the way the story is written and won’t be able to fall into the story the way I love to do.

Right now its being framed as a writers choice and I try to respect that but, its not a choice that I can really feel comfortable using. Its odd that if the trend toward present tense continues I will end up being an ‘old foggey’ who’s writing is ‘antiquated’ and not ‘modern’. How disconcerting.

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