Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Respected Social Sciences Periodical Condemns Often-used Literary Device

The following conversation took place in our kitchen on the evening of July 1, 2008.

Me: The Economist has come out against the use of the omniscient third-person narrator.

J: (Clearly weirded-out) What? So, does that mean that it isn't going to use that point of view ever again, or has it published an editorial railing against it?

Me: It's part of one of it's book reviews. Let me read it to you. "The omniscient third person can often be a tedious fictional narrator. Authors tend to use this device when they want to show off their keen sense of the complexity of human nature -- their insight into the thoughts behind the words, the pain behind the sneers. But what could be more tiresome than a perspective that floats from head to head, with every character well-perceived, fleshed out and sympathetic? Surely, it takes much more restraint -- and far more faith in one's readers -- to place the full heft of a book in the bumbling hands of an unreliable first person."*

J: Wow.

Me: It's clearly drawing a line in the sand.

J: Right over Dostoevsky's face.

*The Economist, June 28-July4, 2008, uncredited book review.

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