Friday, November 30, 2007

Unreliable narrators

I've been skimming through the upcoming books lists on FantasticFiction. (Marcus has been sick for a week, I'm feeling totally shattered and that's about all my brainpower is up to doing. It's a rather glassy-eyed skim too.)

Anyway, I was reading the blurb for a book, which said:

"With characteristic subtlety, Forster holds back the essential truth till the end, when we realize that Louise is not as reliable as her matter-of-fact narration suggests."

And it made me realise that I detest unreliable narrators. I know it is considered a clever and edgy writing technique, but to me it just feels like a con. And I don't like being conned.

I don't want to invest my time and emotions (and I really do invest my emotions) and energy in a book and especially in the characters, only to get to the end and find out that nothing is what it seems.

I feel like the author is laughing at me. "Ha, ha, ha, tricked you! You spent all that time liking and empathising with and worrying about character X and she was having you on all along. So was I. Ha, ha ha!"

No thank you.

I don't mind plot twists, in fact good ones are fantastic, but to twist everything so that what I've read becomes a lie will ruin a book for me.

After saying that, I accept that a really good writer can pull of pretty much anything, but as a generalisation, I want the author and characters (if using a narrator) to be honest with me. I'm a naturally honest kind of person. I take the world at face value because I believe (hope?) that most people are fundamentally honest. I want my books to be honest as well.

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