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Trollope and the creepy POV

 

 

scary_good_books_sales_2I don’t like 2nd person POV – you know the one; the one where the author keeps on breaking through the third wall addressing you where you sit, whether it be in your bedroom or kitchen or on the beach, and actually discusses things with you.

It’s creepy. I especially don’t like a long-dead author talking to me.

Much less do I want to enter into a debate about sundry opinions on life decisions, or why he’s going to leave a certain character where they are for the moment. I’m reading a novel, for Pete’s sake, I don’t want to have to think or suddenly sit upright and be on my best behavior because the author has popped in for a chat. I just want to be told a story in private, thank you very much.

I’ve read many Trollope novels so, logically, it can’t be annoying me as much as I claim – right?

Wrong. Every time he does it I cringe, I feel cornered, and just want him to take himself off behind the curtain and get on with telling the story. I have even flipped pages to get to that point; sad but true. Why do I need this?:

‘What communication there may have been between Sir Henry and his servant John is, oh my reader, a matter too low for you and me.’ ‘We cannot stay long at Suez, nor should I carry my reader there, even for a day, seeing how triste and dull the place is.”Methinks it is almost unnecessary to write this last chapter. The story, as I have had to tell it, is all told.’

It’s almost as if Trollope, whilst writing, feels the need to explain his decisions, and those of his characters, as he goes. Not necessary, believe me. Just present your characters and their actions without any disclaimers or explanations and let me, the reader, do the rest without you, the author, breathing down my neck.

Of course he’s not the only one; Dickens likes to impose himself between the page and his readers, too. Michael Faber does it, particularly at the beginning of The Crimson Petal and the White, so much so it almost caused me to cast the novel aside which would have deprived me of an excellent read. Even if he’s still alive, it’s creepy. In this opening you are greeted with:

“You have not been here before. You may imagine, from other stories you’ve read, that you know it well, but those stories flattered you, welcoming you as a friend, treating you as if you belonged. The truth is that you are an alien from another time and another place altogether.”

Thank you. I am well aware I am not a Victorian living in that era of paradoxes. I am reading a novel about it. I don’t need to be told.

Happily, most authors leave their characters to do the talking and play out their lives in front of me without intruding upon my imagination or thoughts, and that’s the way I like to read: uninterrupted and unassaulted.

 

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May 7, 2017 · 8:35 am