Wednesday, February 24, 2016

In the Land of the Flawed, the Unreliable Narrator Is King

In the process of going through your notes in search of thematic materials, you are bound to note how recurrent themes have possessed you, which is a diplomatic way of saying you note repetitions,itself a milder form of the more direct assessment of repetitious.

Not all repetition is bad, even though it becomes arguable that such a statement is also an exercise in diplomacy on the grounds that repetition is what it claims to be, restating an opinion with the potential danger that enough repetitions will make the opinion a fact. 

In mitigation, Musicians practice on their instrument, artists practice drawing or sketching, dancers practice steps or routines, all with the goal of developing the necessary muscle memory for improved technique. 

With your repetitions as a metric, the subject of the unreliable narrator makes a significant presence, your concerns ranging from basic definitions to the more nuanced assertion that all narrators are to some degree unreliable, and your subsequent attempts to define some guidelines for assessing where those boundaries begin and end.  When, for instance, is a narrator reliable? At what point does the reliability lose its moorings, then begin a drift toward unreliability?

You can't stay with that line of thinking for too long without turning the light of inquiry on yourself, particularly since other of your thematic concerns lean heavily toward self-reliance, ongoing exercising of your interior monologue voice and its external manifestation, your narrative voice. 

You believe you've spent as much time and effort with concerns to your inner and narrative voice as you have with reliability of narration, likely even more since your own preference for the topmost narrative quality is voice.

Recent lectures on reliable narrative voice to writing and literature classes have doubtless kept the subject close to your awareness. No wonder then your recent inventory: Do you speak the way you write? And, do you write the way you speak?  Your present goal is to be able to say yes to both with honest certainty.

This leaves the door open for the next round of related questions:  Are you a reliable narrator? On a scale of one to ten with one being the least reliable, how reliable are you? A voice asks you if you expect an honest answer to that question, another voice yet asks you if you're fucking kidding. 

Regardless of the implications, you're pretty much committed to this binary.  Nevertheless, yes; you do expect an honest answer, and no, you are not fucking kidding; this is a serious business.

Another repetitive element among your written notes and these blog speculations is the awareness that being serious about something is a language of its own, with potentials for uncertainty and/or bullying. In your experience, seriousness is often a warning symptom of either pomposity or defensiveness, neither of which--again, your experience--is as compelling as humor, preferably deadpan.

You are only in recent years able to maintain deadpan for a respectable length of time, in effect undercutting the effect you'd hope to leave in a conversation, argument, or composition. This ability comes with the reassignment of the victim of the humor to you. 

This ability is of value and concern to you; without it, you emerge as subordinate to the intended effect, which is thoughtful consideration after the listener/reader has entertained the release of laughter, then moved on to see the intent behind the humor. You do not wish to appear to be laughing at your own joke, rather to be bewildered by it. Did you say that? Mean that?

By this roundabout approach, you reckon how laughing at your own joke robs you of the effect you'd hoped to convey as the storyteller, the effect of storyteller as victim,  If you are laughed at or with, sooner or later the reader/listener will recognize his or her own vulnerability and accountability.

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