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Archive for February 6th, 2007

Reading Jealousy (4)

Dr Zen writes:

You are going to be joining the long line of readers of R-G who finish his work with a vague — and sometimes not so vague — sense of dissatisfaction.

He doesn’t do answers. I think that is because his belief is that the question is (or ought to be) unaskable, and consequently unanswerable.

I’m going to keep trying. Sometimes being tired from work puts me in a bad mood. I should just close the book and forget about it till I feel like reading it. At the moment, I’m in a much more generous mood.

When I closed the book last night at about two AM, I wrote some notes.

If the narrator is so obsessed that he revisits the scenes over and over again, how can he, at the same time, seem so ignorant as to their significance? And if he is not ignorant of their significance, why does he avoid confronting or discussing it on the page? Is it because he has something to hide? Whatever the reason, why then is he telling any story whatsoever? Why have the words been set down? Under what pretext do we find ourselves together, as reader and writer? Why would anyone sit and labour over not saying what could be said?

When somebody reads a story he knows is not true, about characters he knows are not real, told by a narrator who pretends to be omniscient, he enjoys this illusion that he willingly and momentarily pretends to believe in. To subvert this arrangement seems arbitrary to me. Why would someone want to make a point of not knowing what was really going on in the minds of characters everyone knows don’t exist anyway? Why write such fiction at all? I know that we must stick to one point of view, and be careful about not writing what a narrator doesn’t know. But a narrator who doesn’t even speculate?

There are no thoughts to be known. All is imagined.

* * * * *

A… sits at a table and does not speak. Her husband (we assume), the narrator, watches her. We cannot know what she is thinking, or what she does when she’s away from him. Why is this so? Because R-G has decided to restrict himself only to what the narrator can see or know. Fair enough, and quite common. He has also decided, it seems, to conceal a great deal of what the narrator knows as well.

But if the situation and characters are products of the imagination and not of knowledge, then it seems largely arbitrary. How do I know that A… is even sitting at the table? If I say I don’t even accept her existence, I sound as though I naively think the writer was out to hoodwink me all along. I go so far that the extreme of clever scepticism because naivete, the way objectivity becomes subjectivity if you take it far enough.

The above is just a record of my frustrations. I don’t know how valid the questions are. I haven’t finished the reading the book yet. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a record of the reasons why I gave up and joined the long line Zen mentions.

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