You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Metajournalism’ category.
September 6, 2010 in Metaart, Metafiction, Metajournalism, Metamusic, Metanonfiction, MetaTV, Original Fiction | Tags: literary criticism, Metafiction, novel, novels, short stories | by Kelly Lynn Thomas | 6 comments
Welcome to Metafiction Week! I am excited to be celebrating all things meta, and I hope you are too!
Things are changing around here—a little bit anyway. In addition to blogging about metafiction, I’ll also be talking about storytelling in general, works that bend and blend genres and interesting structures in fiction and nonfiction.
Why? Because I think all of these things are closely linked to metafiction. Since metafiction often offers commentary on the story itself, storytelling is an important aspect. Structure is also important, as many stories rely on nontraditional structures to support commentary.
Genre bending/blending is a bit of a different topic, but I feel it fits nicely with metafiction. In some books the metafictional qualities help the author bend genres (as in The Things They Carried), while in others structure is used (as in Woman Warrior).
I will also drop in some discussions on experimental fiction as I see fit. With changes in technology, the way we experience stories is starting to change. I’m very interested in the direction novels, ebooks, choose-your-own-adventure, cell phone novels and serialized fiction will take from here.
Even if those things aren’t metafictional, they are important to the art of storytelling. So, at its heart, this is a blog about storytelling. It’s a blog about the way we look at storytelling, the way we experience stories, and how we can use storytelling for a variety of purposes. I think metafiction is an important part of that.
For that reason, I’m keeping my tag line: “Original fiction and commentary on everything meta.” Now, it might be more accurate to use something like, “Original fiction and commentary on the art of storytelling,” but meta is commentary on the art of storytelling.
I have four ultimate goals for this blog. The first and most important is:
- To expand readers’ and writers’ knowledge of and appreciation for metafiction.
Think of me as like a metafiction pastor, spreading the good word. Only I won’t shake hell in your face to convert you, I’ll convert you with damn good stories!
The other three are:
- To become the go-to resource for metafiction. (A lofty goal, I know.)
- To (eventually) showcase the best new metafiction by established and new authors, both here online and in print.
- To explore and master storytelling in my own writing.
In the near future I hope to start interviewing important authors who write metafiction, and I also hope to be able to take submissions of short stories and short creative nonfiction (and be able to offer payment for this content).
In the not so near future I hope to offer a printed companion to this blog, with in-depth critical articles as well as great metafiction, metanonfiction, and meta-art.
My reading list
These are only a small portion of the books on my reading (or to-buy) list, but they are the ones that contain metafictional elements. I am particularly looking forward to The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loanna, The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris (which is translated from the French, and I definitely need more translations in my life), and, of course, Don Quixote in English!
- The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris by Leila Marouane
- The House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
- The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
- The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loanna by Umberto Eco
- Don Quixote by Cervantes (I’m reading this again, because I’ve only ever read it in Spanish, and it’s a difficult text to read in a second language.)
Please take the time to comment and let me know who you’d like me to interview, or what books you’d like me to review. What’s on your reading list?
Starting tomorrow, I will be celebrating metafiction with art, book reviews, original fiction, and a few surprises. Now that my life has normalized, I want to make this blog the best it can be, and the go-to resource for metafiction. So please join me this week for my meta-celebration!
Sept. 6: The “new” NitB, plus my meta reading list — what’s on your list?
Sept. 7: An examination of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (is it meta?)
Sept. 8: Meta-links and meta artworks!
Sept. 9: A new chapter of Ruby and the Moon
Sept. 10: The unveiling of a surprise (or two)!
Let me know what you’d like to see here. Or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. After this week, posting will return to normal once-a-week stuff.
April 19, 2010 in Metafiction, Metajournalism, Metamusic, Metanonfiction, MetaTV | Tags: Avellaneda, cervantes, Don Quixote, fiction, literary criticism, Metafiction, novels, storytelling | by Kelly Lynn Thomas | Leave a comment
Last week’s post talks about metafiction and what exactly it is. I argued that structures and constructions that use the story-within-the-story format are inherently metafictional because their simple existence provides commentary on the storytelling process.
Now it’s time to back up my claims! I’ll use Don Quixote as an example, because it features two of the more common story-in-story tropes.
In the second volume of Don Quixote (published about ten years after the first), the story within the story comments on Spanish society at the time, as well as defends the book against a “false” second volume released by one of Cervantes’ critics. It also draws attention to the fictional devices of the novel because the story within the story is, in fact, Don Quixote!
It’s pretty easy to see why that first trope is metafictional, so what about the second?
There’s another story within the story in the first book of the novel. “Cervantes” appears as a narrator, and delivers this tale as if it were a legend. He tells it to us in a rather conversational manner.
That first story within a story is interesting to look at, because although Cervantes appears as a character, he does not appear as a writer—in the novel he is collecting this legend and recounting it, but he is not writing it, although it is written down by an Arab historian, and he has it translated.
The fact that he has to have the legend translated by a friend does imply some form of writing, but that is overpowered by the way Cervantes recounts the story much the way one would share a story around a campfire. He draws attention to different “versions” of the story, and freely admits some things have been forgotten.
In this first book, Character-Cervantes becomes a storyteller, not a writer. And despite that, despite the fact that Cervantes does not go out of his way to shout “look at me, I’m writing a book about writing a book aren’t I so clever???” the first installment of Don Quixote does draw an incredible amount of attention to its own conventions without being obvious.
The story of Don Quixote, not the novel Don Quixote, makes fun of the Spanish obsession with novellas de caballaria, or novels about heroic knights. Author-Cervantes takes into account the way these stories are told and puts a twist on that when he tells his story, so the format/story frame does also comment on the novellas de caballaria.
Although there are two different levels of commentary in the first book, Cervantes could have achieved the same storytelling commentary had he made up another character (instead of using himself) to tell the story. Of course, Cervantes wanted to do much more than comment on storytelling.
The narrator, who speaks in first person, tells us the story of Don Quixote as if it were a legend, and brings in a proxy narrator in Cide Hamete Benengeli, the Arab historian who’s recorded the entire “legend.”
So, if you take Cervantes out of that picture, I believe the way he tells the story, and brings in Benengeli (making it a book-within-a-book, or more appropriately, a-bunch-of-scrolls-within-a-book), does in fact still comment on the storytelling and writing process.
So what does it say?
It says that people change stories, either for their own purposes or because they forget. It says that society is fascinated with larger-than-life people, whether because they are great or because (as in this case) they are “crazy,” and by extension it shows us glimpses of our voyeuristic nature.
I see all story-within-story constructions as metafictional in this way, but I will concede that not everyone will. But, I, having an unhealthy obsession with metafiction and structure, am wont to go looking for metafiction in unusual places. I love stretching the boundaries of genre, metafiction being no exception.
What do you think? Are all stories-within-stories metafictional, does it depend on the story, or am I full of doggie doo? Leave a comment and let me know!
April 12, 2010 in Metafiction, Metajournalism, Metamusic, Metanonfiction, MetaTV | Tags: fiction, journalism, literary criticism, memoir, Metafiction, news, novels, short stories, storytelling | by Kelly Lynn Thomas | 1 comment
When I tell people I blog about metafiction, I often hear “What’s metafiction?” So I thought rather than examine a particular work this week, I’d discuss metafiction and perhaps arrive at a working definition for the purposes of this blog.
According to the dictionary…
Metafiction is “fiction in which the author self-consciously alludes to the artificiality or literariness of a work by parodying or departing from novelistic conventions (esp. naturalism) and traditional narrative techniques.” (That’s from my computer’s built-in dictionary.)
Merriam-Webster’s definition: “fiction which refers to or takes as its subject fictional writing and its conventions.”
Wikipedia’s definition: “a type of fiction that self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction, exposing the fictional illusion. It is the literary term describing fictional writing that self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artifact in posing questions about the relationship between fiction and reality, usually irony and self-reflection.”
Which definition is better?
They all are. Personally, I take a very broad view of metafiction. My “meta generosity,” if you want to call it that, stems from my background as a student of fiction, nonfiction, travel writing and journalism. I like to think I’m a writer who takes risks in her work, whether structural or by mixing genres you probably shouldn’t mix (such as travel memoir with short story—that’s my big project right now).
By necessity, structure dovetails with metafiction, and is something that I will more than likely discuss here in the context of a work that has an interesting structure but perhaps isn’t quite metafiction. In the same vein, I think genre-bending or juxtaposing two genres together (not blending them as in a sci-fi western, but using them side-by-side) dovetails with metafiction.
Both structure and genre exist in a fuzzy area between metafiction and “normal” fiction, and depending on the interpretation and the context, I think works that walk that line can go either way, as metafiction relies heavily on structure and often on genre blending/genre juxtaposition to deliver its message.
The writing becomes metafictional (in my mind) when the reader is taken outside of the story and is forced by the author to look in on it from the outside, normally to comment on the craft of writing, society at large, or some other issue, but commentary is not strictly necessary.
What about stories-within-stories?
The story-within-a-story is perhaps the most recognizable form of metafiction. Don Quixote is an early and excellent example. This form of story is inherently metafictional, because to tell a story about telling a story must in some way comment on the storytelling process. How stories-within-stories comment on storytelling is another post, though.
Notice I used the word “tell” rather than “write” up there. If you’ve read any of my entries on metajournalism or metamusic, you probably realize that I do not restrict metafiction to writing, nor to fiction. Because of that, the distinction between “write” and “tell” is important. You can tell a story in an infinite number of ways. Writing is only one of those ways, albeit an incredibly powerful one.
“Meta” as defined by The Narrative in the Blog
I think it’s necessary to define meta in terms of a broader context than fiction for this blog, since I discuss more than fiction. That being said…
A work of any genre or style is “meta” if the author of the work purposefully and self-consciously draws attention to the work’s structure, genre or existence as fiction/nonfiction for any purpose, or if the author of the work unintentionally uses a structure or other technique that draws attention to the work’s structure, genre or existence as fiction/nonfiction.
Hopefully this brief discussion helps you put my articles and commentary (and fiction!) in context. Please feel free to add your own definitions, thoughts, or reactions to this in the comments! I’m sure this is a topic I’ll return to innumerable times over the life of this blog, because metafiction can be such a shady area. But that’s why I love it!
In fact, only 29 percent of people believe that journalists report news stories accurately, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press’s annual Press Accuracy Rating. Worse, only 18 percent of the American population believes that the news media treats all sides fairly.
It’s no wonder no one cares about the demise of print media—no one thinks it’s any good (plus why pay when it’s all free online?). Newspaper circulation continues to fall, and in October the New York Times reported that it fell 10 percent nationally from 2008.
And, as Chris Anderson points out in his book Free: The Future of a Radical Price, ad space in a printed paper is more valuable than it is online simply because there’s only so much physical space, whereas online space is limitless. So online advertising isn’t really working out for newspapers, either. And we already know that print advertising will die with print newspapers.
With all these problems, what is the future of the Fourth Estate? Will poor-quality amateur blogger-journalists take over as the public’s primary source of news, potentially causing panic and the fall of democracy with faulty, poorly-reported stories (as many journalists fear)?
Will a few media moguls rise to the top and slowly squeeze the life out of the majority of unbiased, struggling newspapers? Or will newspapers find a business model that actually works?
As a journalist, I sincerely hope that the industry finds a viable, profitable way to survive that allows us to maintain the integrity we think so highly of. That is why I think journalists need to start a dialogue with their readers.
Journalism about journalism is nothing new, but it’s time to explore its potential as a conversational tool and an avenue for revitalization of a dying industry.
Without readers, journalism is pretty much pointless. And with readers quickly losing interest in the media, journalists need to come off their high horse and talk to the people for whom they write.
This should be fairly easy to do—readers can comment on stories at most online newspapers. But journalists, and by extension, editors and publishers, need to take the first step.
While a good start, the news industry will have to take it a step further to find a new business model that works. So, journalists, talk to your readers. Write about what you do, and let the people that are writing your paychecks give you some ideas. I bet they’ve got some good ones.