Archive for the 'BGE Authors' Category

03
Nov
08

the unreliable narrator

Here is a guest entry by Diana Spechler, author of the new novel, WHO BY FIRE.  I asked her to talk about the subject of her literary salon, which we called Write or Wrong:  The Unreliable Narrator Defines Virtue.  A short description of the salon was this:  One person’s morality is another person’s evil.  How do we know our principles are virtuous?  And how can we be so sure that people who seem evil are that different from us?

***

At Book Group Expo a couple of weekends ago, Susanne Pari moderated a panel (comprised of Andre Dubus III and me) about the unreliable narrator.  Before I was asked to be on the panel, I hadn’t really thought much about the word “unreliable” in connection with the three narrators in my novel.  I panicked a little.  I couldn’t believe I was being relied on to reliably present my narrators as unreliable.  What if I couldn’t deliver?  Fellow authors and readers would forever consider me unreliable.

I employed the sometimes-reliable Wikipedia.

An unreliable narrator, I read, “is a narrator whose credibility is seriously compromised…due to psychological instability, a powerful bias, a lack of knowledge, or even a deliberate attempt to deceive the reader or audience.”

Okay.  But doesn’t that describe, like, I don’t know, every person in the entire universe?

Perhaps not everyone suffers from psychological instability, but who doesn’t have biases?  Who doesn’t lack knowledge?  Who never deliberately attempts to deceive his audience?

Take me, for example.  While I was writing my novel, I suffered many episodes of psychological instability, like the time my computer crashed and I lost three days’ work, and I stood in my apartment in my bathrobe, my head thrown back, screaming and trying to yank my hair out of my scalp.

And bias?  Yeah, try telling me my nieces aren’t flawless.

Lack of knowledge?  Okay, I lack a little knowledge now and then.

And do I attempt to deceive my audience?  Yup.  At Applebee’s, where I was once a waitress, I was trained to “up-sell” by using “sizzle” words (i.e. “How about a nice, refreshing, frosty iced tea?” or “Wouldn’t you like a juicy, delicious glistening steak?”)  Look.  You can take the girl out of Applebee’s, but you can’t take Applebee’s out of the girl:  I am to this day a frequent user of sizzle words.

So.  Of course my narrators are unreliable.  How could I, the most unreliable of narrators, create reliable narrators?  By the same token, how could my mother, who often blurts in fits of emotion, “Diana,  you’re perfect!” and who has told me all my life that anyone who doesn’t like me is “just jealous,” have created a reliable daughter?

Unreliable begets unreliable.  We are a culture, a planet, a galaxy of unreliable narrators.  We push our agendas.  We avoid eye contact.  We screen our phone calls, dye our hair, guard our passwords, and wear slimming colors.  We say things like, “You’ve never looked better,” “I’ve never loved anyone as much as I love you,” and “I’ll call you right back.”

But I digress.

My point is that the Unreliable Narrator panel wasn’t scary at all.  It was awesome (I know: “awesome” is a sizzle word).  I loved every second of it.  But by now you don’t trust me, so I really shouldn’t bother to tell you what I think.

Advertisements
12
Sep
08

October 2008 list of authors

You can find a comprehensive list of our October 2008 authors, their photos, web links, and bios on our website, but if you want to see all of their names in one fell swoop, here are all 77 of them next to the title of their most recent book:

1.    Karen Abbott, SIN IN THE SECOND CITY
2.    Doug Abrams, THE LOST DIARY OF DON JUAN
3.    Melanie Abrams, PLAYING
4.    Rabih Alameddine, THE HAKAWATI
5.    Maggie Anton, RASHI’S DAUGHTERS
6.    Annie Barrows, THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL SOCIETY
7.    Brunonia Barry, THE LACE READER
8.    Erica Bauermeister, THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS
9.    Kristin Billerbeck, THE TROPHY WIVES CLUB
10.    Catherine Brady, CURLED IN THE BED OF LOVE
11.    Janelle Brown, ALL I EVER WANTED WAS EVERYTHING
12.    Sylvia Brownrigg, MORALITY TALE
13.    Ron Carlson, FIVE SKIES
14.    Jennifer Lee Carrell, INTERRED WITH THEIR BONES
15.    Margaret Cezair-Thompson, THE PIRATE’S DAUGHTER
16.    Brian Copeland, NOT A GENUINE BLACK MAN
17.    David Corbett, BLOOD OF PARADISE
18.    Marisa de los Santos, BELONG TO ME
19.    Frances Dinkelspiel, TOWERS OF GOLD
20.    Andre Dubus, THE GARDEN OF LAST DAYS
21.    Will Durst, THE ALL-AMERICAN SPORT OF BIPARTISAN BASHING
22.    Selden Edwards, THE LITTLE BOOK
23.    Zoe Ferraris, FINDING NOUF
24.    Susan Freinkel, AMERICAN CHESTNUT
25.    Jane Ganahl, NAKED ON THE PAGE
26.    Leah Garchik, REAL LIFE ROMANCE
27.    Paola Gianturco, WOMEN WHO LIGHT THE DARK
28.    Julia Glass, I SEE YOU EVERYWHERE
29.    Jeff Golden, UNAFRAID
30.    Herbert Gold, STILL ALIVE
31.    Kathi Kamen Goldmark, AND MY SHOES KEEP WALKING BACK TO YOU
32.    C.W. Gortner, THE LAST QUEEN
33.    Susan Griffin, WRESTLING WITH THE ANGEL OF DEMOCRACY
34.    Moira Gunn, WELCOME TO BIOTECH NATION
35.    Masha Hamilton, THE CAMEL BOOKMOBILE
36.    Diane Hammond, HANNAH’S DREAM
37.    Haider Ala Hamoudi, HOWLING IN MESOPOTAMIA
38.    Jason Headley, SMALL TOWN ODDS
39.    Joshua Henkin, MATRIMONY
40.    James D. Houston, WHERE LIGHT TAKES ITS COLOR FROM THE SEA, BIRD OF ANOTHER HEAVEN
41.    Susan Ito, A GHOST AT HEART’S EDGE
42.    Kate Jacobs, THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB
43.    Lauren Zina John, RUNNING BOOK GROUP DISCUSSIONS
44.    Van Jones, THE GREEN COLLAR ECONOMY
45.    Mildred Armstrong Kalish, LITTLE HEATHENS
46.    Jeanne Kalogridis, THE BORGIA BRIDE
47.    Cynthia Katona, BOOK SAVVY
48.    Kathleen Kent, THE HERETIC’S DAUGHTER
49.    Julie Klam, PLEASE EXCUSE MY DAUGTHER
50.    Deborah Copaken Kogan, BETWEEN HERE AND APRIL
51.    Erika Mailman, THE WITCH’S TRINITY
52.    Maud Carol Markson, WHEN WE GET HOME
53.    Reed Martin, THE REDUCED SHAKESPEARE
54.    Jana McBurney-Lin, MY HALF OF THE SKY
55.    Terry McMillan, THE INTERRUPTION OF EVERYTHING
56.    Christina Meldrum, MADAPPLE
57.    Toni Mirosevich, PINK HARVEST
58.    Nicole Mones, THE LAST CHINESE CHEF
59.    John Nathan, LIVING CARELESSLY IN TOKYO AND ELSEWHERE
60.    Bich Minh Nguyen, STEALING BUDDHA’S DINNER
61.    Ann Packer, SONGS WITHOUT WORDS
62.    Susanne Pari, THE FORTUNE CATCHER
63.    Michelle Richmond, NO ONE YOU KNOW
64.     Mary Roach, BONK
65.    Kemble Scott, SOMA
66.    David Sheff, BEAUTIFUL BOY
67.    Jennie Shortridge, LOVE AND BIOLOGY AT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE
68.    Julia Flynn Siler, THE HOUSE OF MONDAVI
69.    Diana Spechler, WHO BY FIRE
70.    Garth Stein, THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN
71.    Elizabeth Strout, OLIVE KITTERIDGE
72.    Ellen Sussman, DIRTY WORDS
73.    Austin Titchenor, THE REDUCED SHAKESPEARE
74.    Gail Tsukiyama, THE STREET OF A THOUSAND BLOSSOMS
75.    Marilyn Yalom, THE AMERICAN RESTING PLACE
76.    Irvin Yalom, STARING AT THE SUN: OVERCOMING THE TERROR OF DEATH
77.    Victoria Zackheim, FOR KEEPS