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As much as it makes me sad to do so, I’m afraid I must go on an indefinite hiatus from The Narrative in the Blog. I am starting my MFA in creative writing in a few months, and will be working part time in addition. Unfortunately I only have the time for one blog, and I’d like to focus on my personal one at this point in time. I may pop in here every now and then, and Ruby and the Moon will continue on my personal blog. I will still respond to comments.
Don’t worry, I’ll still talk about metafiction… it just won’t be the ONLY thing I talk about.
Join me at
…I will start posting regularly again.
Consider June my summer vacation, even though I’ve been doing anything but relaxing.
That’s okay. I’ll get to do lots of that this weekend.
Happy Independence Day! Go read the most awesome web comic ever, The Dreamer, by Lora Innes, to celebrate!!!!
I have been busy spending time with my family, going to baseball games, traveling, and generally enjoying summer, so I’m cheating this week by linking to today’s post from my website, kellylynnthomas.com. I wrote about why parents shouldn’t try to get books booted from libraries or schools because of “objectionable” content in response to Meghan Cox Gurdon’s column on the Wall Street Journal essentially endorsing book banning.
Please read the whole thing here!
Neil Gaiman’s novel-length fairytale Stardust employs an omniscient narrator and occasional authorial interjection–both play a crucial role in not only the telling of the story, but also in the reading of the story.
The omniscient narrator was common in ye olde Literature (think Austen, Bronte, etc.), but is actually kind of frowned upon in modern writing classes.
Instead, fledgling authors are encouraged to use first person or limited third to allow the reader to get close to the character. There’s nothing wrong with getting inside a character’s head, but sometimes it’s nice to not have to deal with someone else’s neuroses (I don’t know about you, but I have enough of my own, thank you).
Authorial interjection, also known as breaking the fourth wall (although that’s more of a stage term, the first three walls being the right, left and back sides of the stage, the fourth being the invisible one between actors and audience), is much more common, but sadly almost always relegated to a comedic special effect in contemporary literature.
Gaiman’s use of these techniques serves to make the story feel more old-timey, more like a fairytale that our grandparents might have told us when we demanded they tell us a story before bedtime.
But more than putting us into the proper frame of mind, the use of the omniscient narrator creates suspense and tension, and is perhaps the most important device in the story (it’s a device because it’s used to present the story in a particular way, and it comes with certain expectations, like the main characters falling in love and living happily ever after).
Without an omniscient narrator, we would know only as much as Tristan, the main character, and half of the suspense would evaporate before it had a chance to even condense in our minds, since the forces wishing Tristan evil often do themselves in before they have a chance to do Tristan any harm.
Since we know more than Tristan, we often get the urge to yell at him for being stupid, or for not following advice or directions. Plus, it makes us feel nice and smart and quite good about ourselves for being so smart.
While the few instances of authorial interjection are used in situations where the characters are not in any grave danger, they don’t fall into the category of comedy for comedy’s sake. These instances serve to pull the reader more fully into the world of the narrator, and by extension, the characters the narrator brings to life for us.
Any emotional distance we may have felt from the characters because of the narrative filter is replaced by a closeness with the narrator. By speaking to us directly, he’s made us a part of the story. And how can you feel distant from a story of which you’re apart?
Take note that while I call this “fiction” I don’t call it a “story.” Is it one? What do you think?
(Also, please take the time to visit kellylynnthomas.com and let me know what you think of the new design!)
And without further ado,a nonstory:
A short list of strange things that I have seen during my job as an interior designer:
1. A giant squid vase. The glass made it look like it was moving when you looked at it out of the corner of your eyes, and it made me nervous. Everything else in the house was entirely normal, except for that vase.
2. Pantyhose wrapped around the base of a lamp. I wanted to ask why they were there, but decided my imagination did a better job explaining their presence than any truth could. At first I thought the owner might have a thing for erotic asphyxiation or wearing pantyhose on his head, but I didn’t get any erotic or sexy vibes from the rest of the house, so I decided that he had a secret lover who would come over when his wife was at DAR meetings and they would make love on the couch, and she wrapped them around the lamp so his wife would see, and he never noticed because he wasn’t attentive like that. I don’t even know if he had a wife, but I hope so. She would be the jealous kind, but he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t care, he just floats through life and waits for her to bring him a beer, and the only reason he took a lover in the first place was because she came to him and he was bored, so he thought why not?
3. An entire house covered in the letter Y. There were Ys in picture frames, wooden Ys, metal Ys, lamps in the shape of Y, other objects arranged into Ys, even a music stand that was an upside-down Y. The person’s name was Melissa Bracken, she didn’t even have a Y in her name. I did ask her why all the Ys and she shrugged, like maybe she didn’t have an answer, or she didn’t want to answer. I’m not sure why she even hired me, she didn’t want me to change anything, and every time I told her she needed to cool it with the Ys she rolled her eyes at me and put her hands on her hips like I didn’t know what I was talking about. In the end she asked me if I thought there were too many Ys, and when I told her I felt like I was drowning in alphabet soup with all the letters, she looked at me and smiled like a shark, like I had confirmed everything she ever thought.
4. A completely straight, single man in his 30s who had furniture shaped like human reproductive organs. There was a vagina arm chair, a penis couch, end tables that were shaped like the naked backs of muscular men and breast lamps where the nipples are the lights. I guess human shaped furniture shouldn’t weird me out, but it does. Especially the vagina armchair. I sat in it when he went to the bathroom and you sink so low into it, and the colors seem so realistic, and it’s made out of a slippery soft leather, that you really do feel like you’re sinking into a vagina. The penis couch isn’t very comfortable, in my opinion, because it’s so firm, and I had to keep reminding myself not to stare at the lamps so the guy didn’t think I was a lesbian or something. I’ve seen plenty of human shaped furniture and art, but having so much of it in one living room seems gratuitous.
5. Stuffed monkey heads in a bedroom. This woman had like 50 stuffed monkey heads, taxidermy, not stuffed animals, all different kinds of monkeys. They were mounted in groups on each wall, like a honeycomb but instead of bees and honey, monkey heads. I don’t know how she slept at night, with hundredss of dead monkey eyes staring down at her. I wondered why she didn’t have all the monkey bodies too, maybe in the basement or the attic, and maybe with a metal pole that she could screw the heads onto. Each monkey head was labeled, with its Latin name and all kinds of information, country of origin, preferred food, size, weight, everything. The stranger thing was, there wasn’t a single monkey anywhere else in the house, not even a figurine or a stuffed animal or a picture or even a book about monkeys. Just the monkey heads in the bedroom.
When I visit a house like that, no matter why they hired me, I seriously question my decision to enter this field in the first place. People are fucked up.
I’m taking a break from the metafiction this week to once again speak out about a cause I believe in (if I had more time I would have written a metafictional short story about this, since metafiction is so often used for social critique, but alas).
Many of you don’t live in Pennsylvania, but that’s okay. Rather than focusing on jobs and the economy like they said they would, legislators are attacking the LGBTQ community by proposing a marriage amendment that would outlaw any marriage or civil union not between a man and a woman. This is not the first time Pa officials have tried this, hence my post for Blog for Equality Day 2010.
Part of me feels like I should keep politics out of my blog. A bigger part of me feels that any art worth a damn is somewhat political, social or religious in nature, and the “issue” of equal rights for the LGBTQ crowd is a mix of all of those.
So, metafiction fans, please take the time to sign this petition for Equality Pennsylvania, especially if you actually live in Pennsylvania, and tell your own state and federal representatives that you support equal rights for ALL people in this country, regardless of gender, religion or sexual orientation.
Speaking of equal rights, Pa lawmakers are also trying to pass a law that would force many abortion clinics in the state to close. There’s a somewhat complex background behind this law that I won’t bore you with, but suffice it to say that a white man has decided what is best for the medical community to do with abortion clinics against the advice of actual medical professionals… but that’s somewhat of an over-simplification.
My point is this: If you are not gay, lesbian, transgendered, transsexual, bisexual or queer, if you have the full rights that this country affords, how can you possibly justify walking around telling these people they are wrong? If you do not have a uterus and will never, ever have to worry about an unwanted pregnancy, a pregnancy with complications, or needing an abortion, how can you possibly tell women that abortion is wrong and make it almost impossible for low-income women to get the services they need? If you are one of those people, you should be ashamed of yourself.
I suggest the following tactic: Select an organization that either advocates for LGBTQ rights (like Equality Pennsylvania) or the rights of women (like Planned Parenthood), make a donation, even a token donation, in “honor” of the reps who sponsor these bills (Daryl Metcalf and Matt Baker, respectively), and have the notification sent to their Harrisburg offices.
P.S. check out Blog for Equality Day’s sponsor, Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents.