mjj (flemmings) wrote,

The Naive Reader

Have I ever said how much I dislike unreliable narrators? I really really do. I'm quite happy for visual media to pull switches on me, possibly because I really don't care whether you met last year in Marienbad or not, possibly because the visual is always open to question anyway. Am perfectly happy for a film or manga scene to be an unmarked hallucination or a flashback or a dream: the narrative thrust is not the main reason for watching a film or reading a manga.

But in prose narration it gets up my nose just a touch, only mitigated a little by other people's guesses as to what really might have happened. (Or by my own imperviousness: I had no idea Ishiguro's narrator in An Artist of the Floating World was at all unreliable.) The word must be trustable or how can we tell where we are? Agreed, I only feel this way because of prose conventions, but conventions count for a lot. People who arbitrarily break the rules of murder mysteries annoy me too. If a narrator lies consistently, I want at least to be able to construct the facts. If the facts are beyond construction, as they are in Liar, I become anxious.

I also can't conceive of writing a book like Liar *without* a Received Version at hand. If the writer herself doesn't know what really happened, how can she maintain any kind of consistency in the narrator's departure from it? And if it doesn't matter-- if readers really can pick the reality they choose from the facts available-- why bother? It's like a whodunit that doesn't say who did-- an exercise in pointlessness.
Tags: japan, reading, reading_13

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