Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Flirting with meta-fiction (Books - The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood)

In the first of eights sections in the booker winning The Blind Assassin from 2000, Margaret Atwood flirts with meta-fiction, alternating newspaper obituaries with, classic narrative fiction, with tryst scenes in another time period in which one of the two lovers invents a bad science fiction story for idle amusement. In a book where one of the major characters is killed off in the first sentence, I really thought the writing would be action packed and to-the-point, but the switching between forms felt amateurish and distracting and while Atwood seemed to be having a good time playing with form, I wasn't having a good time reading. The little sci-fi story particularly irritated me, partly because it was so bad. Either this is obviously bad, I thought, which I find hard to believe since I am such an admirer of Cat's Eye - a brilliant novel - or it's tongue-in-cheek, but either way fifty pages of it wore me out regardless of the reason and I nearly abandoned the book. Then the form changed to a classic narrative alternating between present day and memory, told to us by an elderly woman who is related to all the people of whom we read obituaries. The writing seems surer handed now, as I would expect from Atwood, and the story has me much more interested, but after about 100 pages or so it looks like we're changing back to the meta-fictional hodgepodge. Maybe having some of the narrative context will help, if it ends up being a bad as last time this may be the last you read of this book.

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