REVIEWS: End of Month Reviews #19 - July 2005 [spoilers]

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Wed Aug 10 15:11:34 PDT 2005

martinphipps2 at wrote:
> I asked Tom by e-mail "Can Greggory hear the narrator?"  Because from
> issues 2 through 9 the narration is in second person: the narrator is
> talking directly to Greggory.  So one wonders if Greggory can hear.

Hmm.  That's a good question.

> Something occurred to me just now: suppose Greggory could actually hear
> a voice in his head.  What would that mean?  The usual diagnosis of
> schizophrenia, according to Merriam-Webster's dictionary anyway,
> involves a "loss of contact with the environment" and "hallucinations".
>  Hearing voices in his head would be enough reason for him to be
> diagnosed as such.  He could even be paranoid schizophrenic and that
> would explain his need to escape from responsibility, relationships and
> authority, in this case the police.   Granted the voices in his head
> were telling him NOT to do the things he was doing but being
> schizophrenic doesn't necessarily mean listening to the voices: it's
> enough that he hears them.

I want to say first of all that any interpetation is valid, in theory.
I'm a little hesitant to go along with Dr. Phipps's diagnosis, though,
and, it's for exactly the reason he says later on:

> Thing is, Tom probably
> wouldn't want Greggory to be labelled schizophrenic, ie crazy.  That
> would give him an out: an excuse for behaving the way he did.  The poor
> guy: he was crazy.  He wasn't responsible.  I suspect this is the
> farthest from what Tom wants us to think about Greggory: he wants us to
> think Greggory is like you and me and that any of us might have been
> capable of doing the things Greggory did.

If, let's say, Gregory can hear the narrator, then I would say that
it's not so much schizophrenia or delusion as it is the very ordinary
phenomenon of the inner voice.  These are Gregory's self-doubts and
angst.  Or, one could argue that it's his conscience, his Jiminy

I'd say that it's this last one I was going for, and in my previous
writing for RACC, you can find a lot of shifts into second person or
into what you would call accusatory third person.  And really, both are
about what the character in thinking, so you could call them both an
indirect first person.

I'm not going to say anything ridiculous like using second person puts
you in Gregory's shoes, because even if seeing a string of "you's" in
the text might be disconcerting, I think most people still know that
it's Gregory Dingham that's being addressed.  I used to argue about
second person with a high school teacher of mine, who thought it had
very limited dramatic potential for just that reason: he reads the
line, "You robbed the bank", for example, and the first thing that pops
into his head is "no, I didn't.  What is he talking about?"

I think when second person has been used in fiction, it's been more on
the experimental/avante-garde side of the fence.  (Not that there's
anything wrong with that.)  I can only think of two examples that are
more mainstream in their appeal.

First, who remembers CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURES?  The entire series was
written in second person, and the effect was very much intended to put
you into the shoes of the character.  The narrator just told the story,
like she would in third person, and at the end of every page or two,
you were given a choice: do you go with the mysterious stranger?  Turn
to page 6.  Do you run away?  go to page 18.  The book could end ten or
fifteen different ways, ranging the spectrum from death to narrow
escape to victory.  They were a lot of fun, and now that I think of it,
that brings up another place in which second person might be used:
table-top dice-throwing role-playing games.  Some Game Masters will
refer to the characters by their names, sticking to third person: Marat
narrowly dodges the gulliotine when a dragon appears.  Roll agility.
Etc.  But more often than not, it's second person: You narrowly escape
the blade of the gulliotine, Marat.  But now a dragon appears.  You
better roll agility again.

The second example, and the one from which I cribbed a great deal of my
use of second person in my LNH writing, particularly with the multiple
characters being addressed, was the mid-nineties twelve-issue run of
Alpha Flight.  The writer's name escapes me.  The series wasn't great:
too many "mystery characters" at the beginning of the series.  I always
think that you should start at the beginning.  Characters should have
some mystery, sure.  And an occassional mystery character is cool.  But
it's really just an artifical way to drum up drama.

But, second person: in that run of Alpha Flight, the narration in the
captions was done in second person, always talking to one character or
another, always espousing self-doubts.  I really enjoyed the effect
despite the other faults of the series.

Come to think of it, Chris Claremont used a lot of second person in his
first run on X-Men.  But usually, in his hands, it was pretty lame.
There was a scene early in the run where Havok and Cyclops fought at
the airport, the former being under the control of Erik the Red.  And
this plane takes off admidst the chaos, explosions everywhere, and the
pilot says, that could have been me!  And then, the most useless
caption ever: "Just be thankful it wasn't, Mr. whatever-his-name-was!"
Totally lame.

But it worked in Alpha Flight, and I picked it up from there.  Speak!
just took it further along, I guess.

> Sigh.  Unfortunately, one way or another, I don't really feel Greggory
> was playing with a full deck.  I hope Tom doesn't take this as
> criticism.  On the contrary, Speak paints a frightening picture of
> paranoia and possible delusion.

Like I said above, any interpetation is a valid one, and I thank Martin
for the compliment.  That being said...

> What if Harry actually had been Greggory's natural father?  That he and
> Harry's mother had had an affair and that was why Greggory felt this
> strange connection to the man.

... this is more ridiculous than Gwen Stacy slutting around with Norman

> Martin


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