Framing devices

Charles Butler hannibal at thegates.fsbusiness.co.uk
Thu Apr 3 06:15:56 EST 2003


Philip

> I like the idea of a framing narrative with an incomplete frame.

Fair enough, as long as it's not the result of the writer's incompetence!
There probably is something a little neurotically-compulsive in our feeling
uncomfortable unless every push gets popped (computer programmers and
readers of Hofstadter will know what I mean). And, obDWJ, some of the books
I like best do their best to break down the cordon sanitaire that lies
between fictional narratives and the narrative that is Life Itself.
Incomplete frames can be one way to do it, I suppose.

> Another book I read I found very annoying for a different reason.
> (Unfortunately I can't remember the title, but it was an Arthurian
setting.)
> The framing narrative is in the present tense, while the main (as I
thought)
> narrative is in the past.  About two thirds of the way through the book,
the
> character narrating the inner story loses the urge to transmit the events
of the
> book to posterity, and we are returned to the present tense framing
narrative
> for the rest of the novel.

Is this Crossley-Holland's _Arthur: The Seeing Stone_? It's been waiting to
be read on my shelves for last 9 months, so I'm not sure, but I do know it
switches between narrative viewpoints.

> Does anyone else find present tense narratives for novels harder to read?

Yes, generally. Rather like reading a novel that's printed entirely in
italics - you can get used to it, of course, but if you stop noticing what's
the point of doing it in the first place? Personally I try to use it for
purely local effects, and then sparingly.

On another list, someone recently asked for examples of present tense
narratives that weren't written in the first person. All I could think of
was Jill Paton Walsh's pair of novels _Goldengrove_ and _Unleaving_.
(Marvellous books both, but I suspect they would have been just as good in
the imperfect.) Any advance on these?

> East Midlands Electricity Distribution plc,
Philip farms power! We already have a list-Konstam, so how about a
list-Archer?

Charlie

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