Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Telling the reader

I'm reading a book now (big literary bestseller) that does sort of microscopic analysis of the characters. Very close POV, very tight perspective. It's sort of cool, though I have to say, I keep waiting for some external plot.

Anyway, there's an interesting issue I've observed, where a woman risks her heart and her marriage for a man, and then spends the next few years obsessing about him and can't get over him. And then the POV shifts to this guy, and he's hardly thinking of her at all. It's as if this life-changing affair hardly even happened to him. And that's kind of fun, because it's so true-- often the affair is life-changing only for one partner.

But then the man starts thinking (after two years) about how deeply he feels about her and others, and I was sort of taken aback. He'd never actually shown in his behavior any deep feelings. And so at first I thought-- author is telling us that this guy is deep, and really has deep feelings, because he recognizes (the author) that he hasn't really created a man with that much depth. Then I thought, maybe we're supposed to notice the contrast between what he thinks about himself and what he really is. His thoughts about his feelings aren't supposed to reflect reality, but rather his own inability to understand himself.

Complicated, yes. And it could just be faulty characterization. But I also think that it's an indication of how readers respond to authority-- because the characterization has been so sharp so far, I'm assuming that he is being slyly observant here. I might be giving him too much credit, but that's what "authority" does-- makes us trust the author and give him the benefit of the doubt.

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