Framing devices

Philip.Belben at Philip.Belben at
Thu Apr 3 07:29:43 EST 2003

Charlie, quoting me:

>> 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!

Ah, but how do you know whether this is the case?

> 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.

I associate this with Tom Stoppard.  I wonder why ;-)  I suppose Hexwood does
some of the same things.

> Incomplete frames can be one way to do it, I suppose.

In Fire and Hemlock, the framing narrative (Polly aged 19) and the main story
(Polly's childhood memories) come together very nicely, with the sort of effect
you describe.  Is this what you had in mind?

>> 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.

I doubt it.  I don't recall ever encountering Crossley-Holland.

It may have been "The Dragon and the Unicorn" - but I still can't remember the

> 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?

Well, The Dragon and the Unicorn counts, if it's the book I'm thinking of.

Barry Malzberg did a present tense meta-narrative.  Not a framing narrative, but
he occasionally stepped back from the story to discourse on how one might go
about filming it.  These digressions were all in the present tense ("The camera
closes in on {character}'s face" and things like that).  Can't remember the
book, except that it was one of two by Malzberg that I got, read, disliked, and
disposed of a few years ago.  Could have been "The Men Inside".

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


I wouldn't have chosen to be Archer (I'd have preferred to farm music), but I've
no objection!


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