Tuesday, January 23, 2007

How Novels Work

I can't recall whose blog directed me to John Mullen's How Novels Work, but I'm actually finding it quite useful. I'm only a chapter or two into it, but it's definitely written at the right level for me and the content is readily applicable to the material I've got before me.

Chapter Two is entitled Narrating and almost immediately he started talking about first-person narratives. Apparently Henry James had rather strong attitudes towards this approach towards informing the reader, calling it 'that accurst autobiographic form which puts a premium on the loose, the improvised, the cheap and the easy'. (see page 42). Mullen goes on to mention how popular this narrative style has become in recent decades. This caused me to pause and mull over the fact that the mystery I'm currently reading this month (Swing) has been told in the first person.

Mullen talks about multiple narrators, such as those used by Wilkie Collins in The Moonstone. And he makes reference to the powers of recollection Defoe ascribed to his narrator, Robinson Crusoe; that put me in mind of Gabriel Betteredge, of course, and I wondered whether I ought to have been more aware of the depth of detail recollected in his narrative there.

Essentially, reading How Novels Work has been rather serendipitous in driving me to piece together my reading this month.