Sunday, February 15, 2009

Narrative as cake

Will you finish reading it?

This? Barthelme's The Dead Father? I haven't decided.

You're stalled.

I'm stalled. It's true. There's a 30-page section, two-thirds of the way through--and it's not a long book--in which the characters read from another book. It's like one of those chapters in Moby Dick where Melville peels off to talk, inaccurately, about cetaceans. 

You thought about jumping over this section.

True. It's not that long. But the book is like cake. It's turning out to be like cake.


Cake. You eat one portion of it, one decent-sized bite, and you'd know all you need to know about the entire cake. This book is like that. The narrative doesn't have progression. It just seems comprised of the same substance throughout. I could move parts around to no ill effect. It'll end. Something will happen. But it's . . . a riff. I could walk out in the middle of some long jazz improv number and come back in ten minutes later, right? Okay, maybe I'd have missed the greatest improv ever improvved. That's possible. But what if it's the same guy diddling about on a riff, and he's not showing me something new moment to moment? 

Just finish the book. It's short.

My keyboard needs cleaning . . .

Don't change the subject.

I'm growing fond of you.

Don't change the subject.

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