LNH: Untold Tales of the Looniverse #2

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Mon Sep 25 08:22:27 PDT 2006

Jesse Willey wrote:
> > It takes no effort what-so-ever to pull the rug out
> > from underneath the
> > audience.
>   But they aren't.  If you actually bother to watch it
> a second time you'll see dozens of little things.

Jesse, maybe you're not understanding what I'm saying: I think shock
endings are stupid, pointless, and completely without artistic merit.
I don't care how many "clues" there are.  It's still an immature and
cynical ploy used by people who don't know how to actually tell a story
with a beginning, middle, and end.

>   There have been other great unreliable narrators
> though.  Including some of my favorite books:
> Slaugherhouse Five, The Adventures of Huck Finn,
> Catcher in the Rye and No Exit.
>   The quasi-fictious Vonegutt is crazier than a three
> dollar bill.  Maybe he was abducted by aliens and
> maybe it was just delusions or some form of PTSD.

Um, Vonnegut is actually _in_ Slaughterhouse-Five (the first chapter,
and the later comment on Dresden looking like Oz), and it's Billy
Pilgrim whom the story is about.  Vonnegut never claims to be abducted
by aliens; Billy Pilgrim is abducted, and becomes unstuck in time.

To doubt the actual central conceit-- that Billy Pilgrim has become
"unstuck" in time-- is kind of like Richard Donner saying The Omen
isn't about the antichrist.  Of course it's about the antichrist!  It's
the frickin' Omen!

But "serious" art doesn't deal with fantasy elements at face value.
Which only serves to push its further into the boonies.

Vonnegut at least has the intelligence and courage to use his sci-fi
conceits and believe in them.

>    Huck Finn wants his tale to be interesting.
> Furthermore, he is ashamed of his treatment of Jim
> prior to the 'All right, I'll go to hell' moment and
> thus has every reason to distort the truth.


>   Don't even get me started on Holdon Caulfield.  He
> contradicts himself so much that I'm not even sure
> Salinger knew what the truth was until the very end of
> the book.  It doesn't mean I don't like the book-- I
> just think at times it went just a tad overboard with
> the stream of consciousness.

I think it's a stupid and pointless and whiny book written by a nutjob.

>   In No Exit you see the characters in various stages
> of lies.  They start out denying that they think they
> belong in their situation.  Then slowly they tell
> another story.  Then each of those stories is pepper
> with truths to make themselves look like bystanders or
> victims of fate.  Finally each one is exposed.   It's
> almost like they're going through the five stages of
> grief for themselves.

That's a little different: these characters aren't telling us the
actual story of No Exit.  Sure, they're lying about their own stories,
but the basic plot of the story-- the play itself-- happens the way the
text and performance say it happens.

> > Personally?  I think that nine times out of ten,
> > it's bad writing.
>   You really hate ABC that much?

I don't really have any reason to doubt most of the narrators in ABC.
Dalton, maybe, but I find he's more interesting if I take what he says
at face value.  When Electra says the building collapses, I figure that
the building collapses.

I'm not saying there's not room for lies in fiction: fiction is, at its
heart, lying.  But if all you want to do is mindfuck the audience
instead of making them think... I dunno.  That doesn't interest me.

It's post-modern, which is a fancy way of saying, I have no idea how to
tell a story without resorting to cheap tricks at the audience's
expense so I can make them feel stupid.  Formal cleverness and shocks
are only there to disguise insipid writing.

I think Rashomon is bullshit, too.

> > An omniscent narrator completely evades the whole
> > controversy.
>   Where I prefer a narrator who has an agenda.  The

Sure.  It makes it easier for you to not actually plot a story or write
compelling characters. :-)


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