Friday, June 10, 2011

Point of You

Two of your all-time favorite novels are narrated in the first person point of view.  This format means you were completely at the mercy and agendas of one Huckleberry Finn and he who was wont to call himself Pip.  Convention, sense of authenticity, and overall plausibility dictate the subsequent wisdom whereby you, as reader, are reliant on those two characters to get your entire picture of the relevant events and their significance related to the narratives you know as Huckleberry Finn and Great Expectations.  As a tangent, you note that each of these novels represent their author at the height of his narrative powers.

Two other of your all-time favorite novels help explode the notion that the reader get dramatic information from the single source implicit in first-person narrative.  Madam Bovary blows point of view to smithereens (whatever the hell a smithereen is); so does Catch-22.  Just as the impressionist artists of late nineteenth and early twentieth century expanded our visual perception, pre- and post-modern writers such as Mrs. Woolf, William Faulkner, James Joyce, and John Dos Passos allowed us the opportunity to see Reality in a more evocative, participatory sense than the descriptive techniques of such remarkable-in-their-grandness authors such as Marianne Evans aka George Elliot, Anthony Trollope, and Charlotte Bronte (who is also one of your must reread favorites).

It is not that eighteenth- and nineteenth-century authors had no truck with irony, they (absenting the splendid Ms. Austen) simply had less reason to bring it forward as a big gun.

Irony and subtext go gamboling down the roadway, hand in hand, much evocative of the Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney movies of eld, devoted, chums, more interested in their exuberance than any significant inner flaws.  Multiple point of view, such as Wilkie Collins presented us in The Moonstone, allows us to see an event and its consequences from a number of points of reference, wherein there are obvious variations on the theme of interpretation.

Switching away from a character you like gives you a chance to see that character from the perspective of someone you may not be so invested in, giving you the opportunity to see both individuals beyond their first appearance to you in the audition hall where each appeared, nervous, not sure what you wished of them, looking for a job, hopeful you would take them on.

Multiple point of view is an upper cut to the senses, a vehicle for the thing you enjoy most of all in your reading, which is surprise.  Two of your favored contemporary writers, Deborah Eisenberg and Lorrie Moore, bring surprise to their narratives with such ease and grace as to remind you of your own take on Reality, which is that it is an ongoing series of surprises.

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