As I’m about to write my response paper and final paper, I could just copy and paste something from that venue and post it here. But the repetitionwould be such a waste, I think. So instead I want to talk about works not associated with this class, but tied into the whole wonderful experimentation with structure. Narratives within narratives, with flash forwards and flashbacks and flash sideways are all awesome, so I’d like to list a few works I think do wonderful and unusual things with narratological structure.
Christopher Nolan: If you have not heard of this man, climb out from under the rock you’ve been living under for the past ten years. He’s one of the greatest directors working today. All his movies play with structure in some way, even his Batman films. I’ve mentioned Inception in a previous post, so here are two others:
First is Memento. The story is told backwards (5-4-3-2-1):
Second is the Prestige, where, as it was perfectly stated in a review I once read about the movie, the storyline was basically put in a woodchipper, scattering different scenes in the chronological order all over the place:
Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles are about a hero telling his own tale in the first person at a later time in his life: Talk about an unreliable narrator.
Stephen King’s The Dark Tower gets all sorts of twisted in the fifth/sixth books, where the characters must find the real Stephen King and persuade him to finish writing The Dark Tower lest the world be destroyed.
There are many others, but I’ll leave you all, and this blog, with the following book that I read a few months back that will completely alter the way you look at all of literature and its many critical facets:
Here is the Amazon.com Review. If you have not read this book, and you especially enjoy structure and the way in which stories are told, you must read this:
A finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Things They Carriedmarks a subtle but definitive line of demarcation between Tim O’Brien’s earlier works about Vietnam, the memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone and the fictional Going After Cacciato, and this sly, almost hallucinatory book that is neither memoir nor novel nor collection of short stories but rather an artful combination of all three. Vietnam is still O’Brien’s theme, but in this book he seems less interested in the war itself than in the myriad different perspectives from which he depicts it. Whereas Going After Cacciato played with reality, The Things They Carried plays with truth. The narrator of most of these stories is “Tim”; yet O’Brien freely admits that many of the events he chronicles in this collection never really happened. He never killed a man as “Tim” does in “The Man I Killed,” and unlike Tim in “Ambush,” he has no daughter named Kathleen. But just because a thing never happened doesn’t make it any less true. In “On the Rainy River,” the character Tim O’Brien responds to his draft notice by driving north, to the Canadian border where he spends six days in a deserted lodge in the company of an old man named Elroy while he wrestles with the choice between dodging the draft or going to war. The real Tim O’Brien never drove north, never found himself in a fishing boat 20 yards off the Canadian shore with a decision to make. The real Tim O’Brien quietly boarded the bus to Sioux Falls and was inducted into the United States Army. But the truth of “On the Rainy River” lies not in facts but in the genuineness of the experience it depicts: both Tims went to a war they didn’t believe in; both considered themselves cowards for doing so. Every story in The Things They Carried speaks another truth that Tim O’Brien learned in Vietnam; it is this blurred line between truth and reality, fact and fiction, that makes his book unforgettable.