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I am still officially on hiatus, but when I read James Wood’s review of HHhH, a new postmodern historical novel by Laurent Binet, in The New Yorker, I had to post about it. Binet’s novel, which revolves around the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the intelligence service of S.S. in Nazi Germany during WWII.

Binet does not use invented characters, and has asserted that the narrator is not, in fact, a character, but himself. This is significant because throughout the novel, the narrator discusses the fictional techniques the author is using to tell the story. Wood describes this all in much greater detail, and also contrasts Binet’s (ultimately shallow, he contends) use of these techniques with those in W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, another self-aware historical set during WWII.

Basically, it seems to me that HHhH is one of those incredibly pretentious postmodern novels that make me roll my eyes. Like the trashy romance novels of postmodernism. (Not that there’s anything wrong with trashy romance novels–except, wait, yes, there is, because most of them rely on horrible sexist stereotypes and cultural norms that are borderline offensive.)

I love weird writing. And of course postmodernism is a hotbed of weird stuff. But I can’t stand weirdness for the sake of weirdness, weirdness that screams LOOK AT ME, I’M DIFFERENT AND SMART. I love weird writing that actually says something new and important about the world we live in. The reason I love postmodernism and metafiction so much is because they give us a way to fight against those hurtful, painful cultural norms that constrict us and force us to be things other than who we really are, who we really want to be.

Based on Woods’s review, and his quoting of certain glib passages from Binet’s novel, it sounds like HHhH, at best, highlights silly fictional techniques, and at worst, makes light of horrible tragedies to prove how smart he is. I think this is a novel I’ll skip.

 

A painting of Don Quixote reading by Adolf Schroedter

Cervantes has a habit of interrupting his stories at critical moments. For example, in Chapter VIII, Character-Cervantes (as I discuss in my post Don Quixote: Meta-Masterpiece)  interrupts the story of Don Quixote’s battle with the Basque to tell us he doesn’t actually know the ending.

Or, for example, the story of Cardenio, which the unfortunate gentleman relates to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Chapter XXIV until Quixote takes offense at Cardenio’s words about Queen Madásima from the novel Amadis of Gaul and sends Cardenio into a mad rage, effectively cutting off the story until later in the book.

Or again, when Quixote and company find themselves at the infamous inn of Sancho’s blanket tossing, where they seek amusement in the story,”The Tale of Ill-Advised Curiosity,” only to have the narrative interrupted by Quixote in the throes of a dream about slaying a giant but really destroying some of the innkeepers wine skins. The moment the story stops, is of course, the moment after we learn that one of the tale’s main characters will die.

This technique not only builds suspense and tension, but says something about readers, too: They are not passive audience members, but participants in the story.

Keep in mind that Quixote himself is a reader-turned-participant in the extremest sense. He has read all the books of chivalry he can find and has decided to take up the sword himself to do great deeds in the name of his Lady Dulcinea del Toboso. And we are, as Cervantes points out on many occasions, reading a book about his exploits. This makes Quixote the ultimate reader participant.

It’s worth noting too, that often, it is Quixote who causes the interruption in the telling of a story, be it on purpose or on accident. In the third example, that of “The Tale of Ill-Advised Curiosity,” the characters reading the tale are Cardenio, Dorotea, the curate and the barber. Cardenio and Dorotea are caught up in a love tangle (not triangle) somewhat similar to that in “The Tale of Ill-Advised Curiosity,” and all four of them have created a story in which Dorotea plays Princess Micomicona, who needs Quixote to slay a giant for her, in order to get Quixote home. They, too, have become participants in Quixote’s story, and it is only fitting that he should interrupt their entertainment to continue the story they’ve created.

Although Cervantes was ultimately parodying Spain’s complete obsession with chivalrous novels, I also read Don Quixote as a parody of the extreme inaction and passivity of those same readers. I doubt Cervantes wants us to put on armor and take up swords and wander around the country slaying wine skins, but interact with the books you read. Think about them critically. Talk about them. Write about them.

 

I am still technically on hiatus because of grad school, but I’ve just finished my first semester and I have some time while I’m on winter break. I hope to get a few posts up before the spring semester starts in January, but I’m not promising anything!

ImageOver the summer I learned that consuming too much metafiction, as with chocolate, wine, margaritas, cheese, berries of any kind, coffee, tea, cake, cookies, candy or anything else delicious and edible, can lead to headaches, indigestion and temporary loss of taste for that food.

I’m not saying Jack of Fables is a bad series. In fact, it does something completely brilliant by making the writing/illustrating process a kind of character in the books. I’m just saying that it’s a very bad idea to read eight volumes of it right in a row. This comic by Bill Willingham is a spinoff of one of my all-time favorite comics, ever, Fables. The books follow all our favorite fairytale characters in their lives in New York City after they were run out of their homelands by the adversary. And then other stuff happens. Jack of Fables spins off fairly early in the series, and follows a separate timeline.

The best way for me to describe the metafiction contained within is this:

Image

Photo by Celeste Hutchins. Used under Creative Commons.

Many jokes are made about the authors creating the characters (and Jack actually turns fat and ugly and then into a dragon for making fun of the authors–see, the writing/illustrating process has agency in this text! Fracking brilliant!). Literary terms, genres and plot devices like science fiction, fantasy, literary, the fourth wall, the other three walls, deus ex machina, etc. become characters. In every issue (so several times a volume), Babe the Blue Ox gets a page or two to look out at the audience and make jokes.

For the first few volumes the story revolves around the Literals, a family of powerful individuals who created all the Fables. One of them tries to write the Fables and all magic out of existence, and so the Fables must prevent this from happening. The Literals are another way Willingham has characterized the writing process, and made it both hero and villain as certain members of the family fight for the Fables, and others against.

All of it is brilliant, and delicious, and if you read it all at once, thoroughly nauseating. Most of the devices and techniques Willingham uses here are fairly obvious, though the effects of those techniques are varied and as I said earlier, brilliant. My first reaction to this was to roll my eyes and say something to the effect of, “Cervantes was never THIS obvioius,” but I was missing the point.

Jack is a self-absorbed prick. Under normal circumstances, only other self-absorbed pricks would have any interest in reading an entire comic book series about such a douche bag. So by making the writing process itself a character, I could stomach Jack’s self absorption and laugh about it. It was especially funny to me as a writer, because sometimes your characters turn into assholes when you want them to be nice, and you’ve got to do horrible things like turn them into dragons in order to make them nice again.

Willingham obviously has a lot of fun with this series, and it’s a lot of fun to read.

That being said, don’t read it all at once.

I’m not going to name names here, but recently I’ve seen a slew of people calling metafiction and breaking the fourth wall synonyms.

Let’s get one thing straight right now. They are not synonyms. They are not the same thing.

It’s like this: Breaking the fourth wall, most frequently used in visual mediums like theater, cinema and comic books, occurs when a character turns to the audience (the fourth wall) and makes some kind of remark only to the audience that the other characters do not hear or are unaware of.

Metafiction, as you well know if you’ve ever read this blog before, occurs when the author of a work, generally one with words, makes the reader aware of the fact that she is in fact reading a fictional story. Examples of metafictional technique include the author including him or herself as a character who is writing the book (Slaughterhouse-Five, The Things They Carried), a book within a book (Don Quijote) or when the characters know they are characters and then let you, the reader, know they are characters.

But but but, you ask, doesn’t a character breaking the fourth wall know she is a character if she is able to break the fourth wall?!

Yes! Yes she does! Therefore, it follows that breaking the fourth wall is a metafictional technique, yes! So it cannot be synonymous with metafiction!

To sum up: Breaking the fourth wall is always metafiction. Metafiction is not always breaking the fourth wall.

Easy, yes/yes? I’m glad we cleared that up! Stay tuned for Thursday’s post on “Masturbatory Metafiction in Jack of Fables”. It’s going to be a mess good one.

A photograph of a photograph I took at MoMA. How meta! It's Maya Deren's Portrait of Carol Janeway (1943) from the collection of photographs by woman photographers.

First, I apologize for not posting last week.  I have a (at least I think) pretty good reason, and I plan on posting twice this week to make up for it.

This past weekend my husband and I took a trip into New York City and did lots of artsy fartsy things (the MoMA, Phantom of the Opera, a cute little show near Chinatown called Coyote, and Start Again that was quite hilarious), so I’ve got lots to talk about.

We really needed this vacation, because throughout March I was busily preparing for my first semester as an MFA candidate at Chatham University! I’m very excited, but I had to fill out the FAFSA, register for classes, apply for fellowships and graduate assistanceships, apply for scholarships and get other things taken care of.  Most (but certainly not all) of those things are taken care of now so I’m hoping my life will be a bit calmer until classes start at the end of August.

In the meantime, check out this author interview I did with Sherry Shahan, author of the awesomely awesome Purple Daze on Figment!  I of course had to cut a few questions from the final draft, but they were really interesting so I will post the “extra” answers here for your reading pleasure either later this week or next week.  (I really should come up with some sort of editorial calendar, shouldn’t I? I have tried a few times and I never seem to stick to it…)

While you’re at it, you can check out all of my book reviews for The Figment Review. Not to toot my own horn, but I think they’re enjoyable.

The lovely and talented Anita Nordlunde has also now posted both German and French translations of excerpts from Ruby and the Moon on her website Welsh Corgi News, which is AWESOME! How many authors can say they’ve been translated into foreign languages before they even publish a book?! Not many, but I’m one of them! =D  You can find each version of the translation by clicking on the appropriate country’s flag.  (And she has like, the cutest little corgi graphics on there ever).

And, finally, here’s a list of things you can expect to see here in the coming weeks/months:

  • “Extra” questions from my Sherry Shahan interview, as well as a discussion of storytelling techniques in Purple Daze
  • An exploration of some of the art we saw at MoMA in New York City
  • An article on Phantom of the Opera
  • An article on Coyote, and Start Again
  • An article on the omniscient narrator and authorial intervention (and Stardust)
  • A series of pieces looking at the way The Killers tell stories in their songs/albums
  • A series of articles about Bones

Metazen is an online literary magazine that publishes a story or a few poems Monday through Friday.

If you love metafiction (and presumably if you’re reading this, you do), be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed for a daily dose of meta.  Many of the stories and poems are fairly short, so you can read them on your commute (as long as you’re not driving), or when you’re standing in line at the food store, or when your work e-mail is taking forever and a day to load (like mine always does).

I feel in love with this ezine the minute I read the following words from the “How Metazen Works” page: “metazen does not believe in non-fiction, both in a literary sense and an existential sense.”

As a journalist and as a creative nonfiction writer, I believe that statement is true on many levels.  And that is one reason why my hybrid/metafictional travel memoir contains so much fiction.  To say it another way, memory is a slippery eel.  What I remember, you may not remember. But what’s more, the words we choose shape the reality we create on the page, and there’s no way to avoid that.

I do believe in nonfiction in a literary sense, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in Metazen.

My new literary goal is to get a story published on Metzen.  I’ve already got one in mind…

*Join the Facebook group, or Follow @metafictionblog on Twitter!

I decided to read Leila Marouane’s The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris after reading a brief review in The New Yorker.  At first I agreed with the reviewer, who thought the “postmodern hijinks” at the end of the book were a bit much.

As I thought about it, though, I came to believe they were essential in telling the story of this confused man trapped between identities and lives.

The basic plot follows Mohamed, an Algerian immigrant to Paris who has changed his name to Basile, whitened his skin and straightened his hair in order to fit in with all the white people.  Basile/Momo has lost his faith, and decides that at age 40 it’s high time he ditched his v-card.  So, he moves out of his mother’s house into a nice apartment in a better Parisian neighborhood.

As soon as he moves out, he meets an Algerian woman in a cafe.  She’s reading a book called Djamila and her Mother.  The author of the book is Loubna Minbar, a name rather similar to Leila Marouane.  From that point on, Minbar comes up constantly, and the women that Basile/Momo meets all seem to know the author personally.  They tell sometimes conflicting stories about her, that she will take your life and turn it into a book and then run away, and that she’s really an Arab who changed her name to sound more white (as Leila Marouane herself did when she moved from Algeria to Paris–her birth name is Leyla Zineb Mechentel).

Basile so desperately wants to lose his virginity that I can’t help routing for him, but when he has an encounter with a woman named Djamila I knew something was up.  The beginning of the book was very linear: it was the straightforward story of Basile getting his apartment and trying to get away from his mother.  As time went on, it got increasingly less linear.  We missed the beginning or ending of his sexual encounters (none of which ended with actual vaginal intercourse), and got bits and pieces of the story in fits and starts.

Loubna Minbar is the one thing that keeps all the stories together, and toward the end Basile/Mohamed begins to worry that the concierge at his apartment is actually the author Minbar, and that she’s writing a book about him.

And she is.  Or at least Leila Marouane is.  The beginning of every chapter goes like this: “I went back to my apartment, he said, thinking about blah blah blah.”  “He said” or “he continued” is always right there, so you know from the beginning that while it appears the book is in first person, someone else is relating the story Basile himself told the narrator.

The concierge, who’s name is Lisa (another “L” name…), at the end tells Basile’s mother that he never leaves the house and that he’s constantly reading these books and thinks she is the author, which confirmed my suspicions that none of Basile’s sexual encounters actually happened.

While I did find this ruse frustrating, and I did feel slightly cheated and jerked around at the end, these “postmodern hijinks” did accomplish one thing fairly well.  They illustrated with clarity how it must feel to be stuck between two worlds: Algeria and France, religion and secularism, mother and girlfriend or sexual partner(s).  And indeed, that is what Basile/Mohamed is.  Half the people in his life know him as Mohamed, the other half know him as Basile.  He wants nothing more than to have sex, but he can’t get away from his mother (she calls him constantly).  He constantly quotes Muslim scholars and poets, yet no longer prays or goes to the mosque.

Were these sexual “encounters” with these book characters actually real, Marouane would have been exploring a different set of problems (like feminism/masculinity and how men from patriarchal religions view women–a little bit of which we do see in the book).  As it is, she’s wormed her way into the deep psychological cleft in Basile’s mind that is neither one thing nor the other that affects a good many young Muslim immigrants in France.

Basile’s delusions were rather quixotic in nature, and the whole book had a Don Quixote vibe to it.  The purposes of the two books are also similar: Cervantes parodies popular Spanish culture, Marouane parodies and explores the issues surrounding Muslim immigrants in France.  While Sexual Life was funny, I think Don Quixote is funnier, especially because we know he’s delusional, while we have to guess with Basile.

The book doesn’t conclude so much as end, rather unlike Don Quijote.  After I shut the book, I was left with a vague sense of unease, which usually means a story has struck a nerve, or at least got me thinking.  The lack of ending in this case is entirely appropriate.  Basile/Mohamed has yet to reconcile the differences between his two selves, much as the rest of Muslim France has yet to figure out its own balance.

During the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s 2011 Winter Read-a-Thon, Jan. 8 – Feb. 19, I will be blogging about the books I read.  For more information, to see a list of books I’ve read, go here.

  • Hours read as of 2/19: 50
  • Funds raised as of 2/19: $235

*Join the Facebook group, or Follow @metafictionblog on Twitter!

Kurt Vonnegut presents an interesting theory about writers in his last novel, Timequake. In it, he says that most women writers are “swoopers” and most men are “bashers.”

Swoopers write “higgledy piggledy” and write a first draft as quickly as possible, and then go back and “painstakingly” fix everything that’s wrong.  Bashers, on the other hand, write very slowly and work on each sentence until it’s perfect.  “And when they’re done, they’re done,” says Vonnegut.

Now, as I stated in my introduction post to this series of posts about books I’m reading for my public library’s Read-a-Thon, the version of Timequake that I read was an abridged audio book.  I make that disclaimer because whenever I read an abridged audio book (sometimes unabridged just aren’t available and I still use cassettes, so that makes them an even rarer breed) I’m terrified I will miss something important.  So, in advance, I apologize if I miss something important.  Blame the abridgment.

It’s interesting enough to think about the way we write and whether or not it can be more or less split down the gender line (if you’re a writer and you’re reading this, leave a comment and let me know which group you fall more into process-wise and maybe we can do an informal poll), but Vonnegut takes it a step further.

It was not entirely clear to me whether he meant “swoopers” or “women” when he said the following, but as he lumps them together I suppose we can assume he means both.  He says that swoopers/women writers are happy to write about and record the lives of people who are “funny, tragic, whatever” without thinking about “why or even how they’re alive in the first place.”

Bashers/men on the other hand, chip away and break down the doors of what it means to be human and the nature of existence.  Vonnegut then proceeds to tell an anecdote about World War II, in which he fought.  Or as he calls it, “my war and Kilgore Trout’s war” (Kilgore Trout being Vonnegut’s fictional alter ego who appears in many of his novels).  The anecdote, which shows us a former Nazi official who is dying, is meant to drive home the point that Vonnegut is a basher.

(I wish I could tell you exactly what the officer said to Vonnegut, but I don’t remember and the trouble with audio books is you can’t flip back and find what you’re looking for!)

Right in the beginning of the novel, Vonnegut tells us he’s been working on a novel called Timequake, but it didn’t work, and instead he wrote the novel we’re reading now.  He refers to the failed version as Timequake One, and mentions it frequently, telling us what happened in the original draft.  The fact that he abandoned a novel and entirely re-wrote it as a hybrid novel/memoir means that, in essence, his “bashing” did not work.  His process failed (as the writing process is often wont to do).  He may have struggled and sweated over every sentence, but in the end he had to go back to ground zero and start from scratch.

Granted, that doesn’t necessarily mean he got lost in swooper territory, and yes, sometimes stories and novels just don’t work.  Because he does keep parts of Timequake One in the final, published version of Timequake, I will argue that he probably did have to “painstakingly” fix what was wrong, throw out what didn’t work and re-work what he wanted to keep to make it fit the new novel.

So, can anyone really be solely a swooper or solely a basher?  Kurt Vonnegut, who claims to be a basher, shows us that sometimes it doesn’t always work to write that way, so based on that evidence, I have to go with “No”.

I will give him one thing, though: Vonnegut certainly chips away at the meaning of what it is to be human and the nature of existence.  (But does that mean women writers can’t? No way!  Margaret Atwood, is, I think, a prime example of a woman writer who does something similar to Vonnegut in her appraisal and exploration of human nature — but that’s another argument altogether.)

During the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s 2011 Winter Read-a-Thon, Jan. 8 – Feb. 19, I will be blogging about the books I read.  For more information, to see a list of books I’m reading, and to make a pledge, go here.

  • Hours read as of 2/6: 33.5
  • Funds raised as of 2/6: $160.75

*Join the Facebook group, or Follow @metafictionblog on Twitter!

When watching television or reading books like Scott Pilgrim that draw heavily on pop culture, I have to ask myself: Has metafiction become “cool”?  Does its use at random points in an episode or chapter indicate to the intelligent that the show or book is smart, and because it’s smart, funny as well?

The answer, I’m afraid, is a resounding yes.  At least when it comes to this comic book by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Be forewarned, there are tons of spoilers for the comic ahead.  If you haven’t read it, you may want to go read it right now, and then come back and read this post.  And no, watching the movie doesn’t count, because they hardly have anything in common.  Despite what I’m about to say, I really did enjoy Scott Pilgrim (book and movie), so if you haven’t read it, do so!

Throughout the six-volume Scott Pilgrim, the characters make reference to previous volumes.  In book six, for instance, Scott’s band mate Stephen Stills reveals that he’s gay to Scott, saying that it shocked everyone when he came out in volume five, but Scott seemed really busy so Stephen didn’t mention it.

In earlier volumes, whenever Scott’s other band mate Kim asks him what happened, Scott tells her to “read the book.”

On one hand, I really enjoyed these little moments because they are meta and worth a chuckle.  They also add to the general goofy, fun, entertainingly awesome feel of the book.

But on the other hand, they don’t DO anything.  They are useless, other than proving that Scott Pilgrim is not only pop culture savvy, but intelligent.  If you removed them, the book would not lose anything.  It would still be a book that breaks a ton of fiction writing rules and gets away with it because it is awesome (even if I had trouble getting behind Scott and Ramona, the story itself was great).

Another metafictional joke in volume 6.

This comic relies on video game tropes to give its story a back bone.  Scott’s life essentially IS a video game.  He has to defeat a series of increasingly difficult “bosses” in order to win Ramona’s love.  Weird things happen, like traveling on “subspace” highways that are never properly explained.  The lack of explanation is okay because that is the expectation the author sets up right from the beginning.

It’s also heavily influenced by Japanese manga and video game fandom in general.  If you’ve never played a video game or at least watched someone play a video game, you probably will have a hard time swallowing Scott Pilgrim.

Because of the video game, manga and fandom influences, it’s a “cool” comic — in the nerdy way, of course.  (But hey, being a nerd is “in” now, anyway.)

So, as I stated above, the self-awareness of the book adds to its over-the-top, ridiculous style. I mean, Scott already has to fight a dancing Indian man, an ex-skateboarder, a butch lesbian ninja (I’m sorry, half-ninja), and an evil overlord who rules the indie music scene with an iron fist and also keeps his ex-girlfriends in a weird tube-thing.  So what’s a little metafiction?

Kind of stupid, actually.

You could argue that the book’s self-awareness points out how ridiculous Scott’s life is and that it’s funny.  But seriously, does it really need a giant blinking arrow pointing to that?  No, no it does not.  That would be, as they say, beating a dead horse.  And, the book is plenty funny without the “go read the book” lines.

Whether or not being funny is enough, the metafiction jokes rubbed me the wrong way.  They fell flat.  They didn’t add anything except easy, cheap laughs. Based on the rest of the writing, which really was good, Bryan Lee O’Malley is better than that.

During the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s 2011 Winter Read-a-Thon, Jan. 8 – Feb. 19, I will be blogging about the books I read.  For more information, to see a list of books I’m reading, and to make a pledge, go here.

  • Hours read as of 1/31: 24.75
  • Funds raised as of 1/31: $121.38

As a parody of novelas caballarescas, or books of chivalry, Don Quijote does beautifully.  But it parodies more than that.

In the prologue, Cervantes laments to a friend about how he has no “preceding verses” to preface his book, or lists of great philosophers and thinkers that he’s quoted, as do his peers (mainly Lope de Vega, a playwright — he and Cervantes did not get along, to say the least).

His friend tells him that he doesn’t need such things, because the books is whole without them, but suggests if Cervantes must have quotes, he should copy a list of quoted men from another book, because no one will be able to tell the difference, and what place does Aristotle have in the story of Don Quijote, a great knight-errant?

I could spend an entire post on the prologue, but it’s what comes after the prologue that I think is really brilliant and drives home the point of how frivolous the preceding verses and quotations are.

Cervantes goes on to write — get this — sonnets and poems from famous knights to Don Quijote, Sancho Panza, Dulcinea del Toboso and even Rocinante, Quijote’s horse.  His point, with the sonnets, is that a work should stand on its own without a long list of quotations or heavy borrowing on another book.

His book is a parody, which means by necessity he relies heavily on other works.  He does so not to puff himself up, but to show how ridiculous it is to do so: Don Quijote is no Amadis of Gaul, that’s for sure.

I missed these gems on my first read-through of the novel, which was in Spanish, in Spain, but alas, an abridged version.  (I was okay with that at the time since it was for a class and there simply was not time to read the whole thing, which is part of the reason I’m coming back to the book now.  Not to mention that it’s much easier to understand the jokes in my native tongue.)

Amadis of Gaul is the most famous book of chivalry, and was the most popular in the late 1500s when Cervantes was writing his masterpiece.  Quijote often quotes Amadis, as well as other famous knights.  So I picked the following sonnet to share (from the Signet Classic 1964 translation by Walter Starkie).

Amadís de Gaula to Don Quijote:

You who my sorrows once did imitate,
When I was scorned and hied me all forlorn,
To Peña Pobre’s beetling crags to mourn,
My joy transformed to penance by my fate;
You who of old your pitiless thirst did sate
With saltish tears that flow from both your eyes;
You who all tins and platters did despise,
And on earth what the earth gave you ate,
Live on secure that for eternity,
At least as long as o’er this earthly sphere
Fair-haired Apollo goads his steeds of day,
Your name for valor shall exalted be,
Your fatherland above all lands appear,
Your learned author, unique, men will say.

Taken in perspective, the above sonnet is hilarious, in my opinion, especially the last line.  Cervantes may have been a bit bitter about his less-than-ideal life circumstances (he was always poor and suffered an injury that left his left hand lame), but he’s not being all that stuck up here.  Certainly he’s elevating himself, but all of Don Quijote is one big joke, so it makes sense that he’s elevating himself partly in jest, as Don Quijote is elevated and “exalted for valor” in jest.

These sonnets add to the overall mood of satire and parody in the book, as well as pointing out how silly they are, not only in this book, but in any book.  Amadis de Gaul, an “actual” knight who went on real adventures and fought real evils would never write this kind of thing to a raving lunatic who ran around with a barber’s wash basin on his head.  But that’s why it’s funny.

Cervantes does skip the list of quoted authors and philosophers, but I think the sonnets from characters in Amadis de Gaul to characters in Don Quijote more than make up for its lack.

So now a challenge for you writers out there: Write a sonnet (or any kind of poem) from the characters in another book to the characters in one you’ve written or are writing.  If you’re not writing a book, just pick two books and write a sonnet from one character in one book to a character in a different book.  Leave your poems in the comments or link to your own blog.  I’ll share mine next week!

During the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s 2011 Winter Read-a-Thon, Jan. 8 – Feb. 19, I will be blogging about the books I read.  For more information or to see a list of books I’m reading, go here.  I’m a little behind in hours this week, but not too much, and I’ve still got lots of time to catch up (I should have 11 so far to reach my goal of 50).

  • Hours read as of 1/16: 9.25
  • Funds raised as of 1/16: $47

Kelly Lynn Thomas


The Narrative in the Blog explores metafiction, narrative form and storytelling. It is currently on indefinite hiatus, but I believe there's plenty here to read about and learn from. Enjoy the archives!

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  • I've been watching a bit of Rocko's Modern Life on Netflix. I mean, I remembered how demented that show is, but damn, that show is demented! 2 years ago

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