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Evolution of the Novel?

ems8140's picture

In Professor Dalke’s discussion on Thursday we discussed Powers’ style of writing, and how he writes as though he’s present in the actual world of the characters, but does not allow the reader to lose himself in the story. In addition, he creates a disconnect between the reader and the characters, adding to the difficulty of the plot to be truly engaging to the reader. This lack of connection to the characters arises because Powers is constantly reminding the reader, “you know this story”, assuming therefore that we must know these stereotypical characters. This style of writing also leads to trouble for the reader if one doesn’t “know the story.” I have difficulty connecting with the characters because the story is told through Powers’ point of view and he is constantly adding in his own ideas about the people and situation, making it difficult for me as the reader to form my own opinions on the subject.

 Professor Dalke posed the question as to whether or not this story shows the evolution of the novel and that all novels in the future will have the authors acting as the narrators, constantly reminding the reader of the work and formulation that went into creating the story. One of my classmates referred to Powers acting as the narrator as the man behind the curtain (the Wizard) from the Wizard of Oz. I thought this was a perfect comparison. The readers (or viewers) don’t want to lose the magic that has been created by the ability to lose themselves in an alternate world by being brought back to reality by the author (or man behind the curtain) discussing his process of creating the story. I surely hope this is not the future of the novel.



alexandrakg's picture

I think there are good ways

I think there are good ways and bad ways to acknowledge the reader.  Take Jane Eyre for example, she addresses us as "dear reader" but I would not say that Bronte was trying to create some kind of experimental disconnect that makes us question literature as a structure, but rather to draw us in, as though Jane were telling us the story.  Take Edgar Allen Poe or H.P. Lovecraft as well, a lot of their stories begin with something along the lines of, "I am sure you must think I am mad," and address the reader many times.  Granted those books are quite different, but in an abstract sense are a similar structure.  I think the difference is motive for using this particular style.

katlittrell's picture

The future of the novel: metafiction

While doing reading for another course, I came across this passage by John Gardner which seemed to sum up what Powers is doing: 

"Some writers... make a point of interrupting the fictional dream from time to time, or even denying the reader the chance to enter the fictional dream that his experience of fiction has led him to expect... such writers are not writing fiction at all, but something else, metafiction. They give the reader an experience that assumes the usual experience of fiction as its point of departure, and whatever effect their work may have depends on their conscious violation of the usual fictional effect. What interests us in their novels is that they are not novels but, instead, artistic comments on art" (John Gardner. The Art of Fiction p33). 

If Powers is the future of fiction, then it seems to me that (at least as Gardner puts it), fiction is dying out, or evolving, to become a new form of literature: metafiction.

I likewise hope that this is not the future of the novel.

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