Thursday, January 3, 2008

Narrative Voice and Character

In surfing through Reading Experience, I came across Dan Green's post from last May on Sara Greenslit's The Blue of Her Body.

I vowed (weakly), to bring no books into my house this year until I've done some significant chipping away at the babbling tower of next-to-be-read-volumes swaying precariously on top of my dresser. Ah well, we are weak and sinful creatures... I want to get my hands on this one.

This style reminds me of something Shirley Hazzard does at her best (Transit of Venus, and stories like "In these Islands)... and of Dickinson. A pause before the thought is quite complete, and then a sudden alteration, a new thought or image that emerges, both perfectly commensurate with its generative phrase, and yet startling in its power to transform.

In the sentence, "She likes the windows, large and filled with trees," it's all in the placement of the comma. The pause--just enough to let our eyes turn toward the windows--then, fill the space before we've completed the image, and fill it with what is more than image alone, but a projection of pure desire comingled with its figurative complement.

Here, I thought, is another example of what's missing in Myers proscriptive injunction against the authorial Voice trumping character. HERE . Style that fully embodies a distinct authorial Voice can forego mere psychologizing and its externalized correlatives, approximating individuation for the reader by plunging us into the psychic tension of a character in context. This is characterization of a particular moment, not anything we can reconstruct as psychological profile, giving us a far more fluid (and more "realistic") representation of Self than the ventriloquist's puppet show Myers would have us prefer.

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