Thursday, 22 October 2009

Gleaned Genius (Pt 6)

This week, we studied Roland Barthes and his effect upon the structuralist theory in radical 1960s literature. I composed this small sampler to help me comprehend the ideas.

The Shambling Structuralist

Although the bridge was distended (bridge in this sense refers to an actual bridge and not the metaphorical bridge that exists between David & Denny: your characters for the evening). David (introduced a moment ago in brackets in a rather pre-emptory manner) pitter-pattered across its imperial shanks (his method of walking was somewhat effeminate, thus throwing his gender into confusion) regardless.

Now, several issues have arisen since the forming of the previous paragraph. Although the parts in brackets were supposed to act as subtle comments upon the structuralist method of meta-analysis, you are now already aware of the author’s attempt to throw the gender of David into confusion, which has somewhat spoiled the surprise reveal later on.

This being the case, we (that is, you the reader and I the author) might as well be complicit in the fact David is really a woman (despite him being described in the masculine earlier on. This was part of the surprise).

We will now continue the story in the knowledge David is a woman. David, as has been described earlier, had an effeminate gait (but we know the reason now, so there’s no need to dwell on that) as he crossed the non-metaphorical but actual bridge. She stopped to tie her shoelace (this is, of course, unlikely – most people would wait until they were off the bridge, but her being on the bridge is integral to the next surprise).

Another issue has arisen in the previous paragraph. I mistakenly revealed that the bridge is integral to the next surprise. Since this has been mentioned, this surprise is now no longer active. This being the case, I should reveal that Denny (introduced earlier) is in fact the bridge. This was going to be a clever twist at the end but is no longer possible.

Since both twists have been revealed, there isn’t much point continuing with this story. This being the case, I’ll stop there.


  1. I'm dying to know what the Jewish Memorial in Berlin has to do with this. I'm going to sit here and wait.

  2. Why, it's the foremost example of contemporary structuralist architecture in Berlin, you silly sauerkraut.

  3. Hmm. Your examples sound more like 'the dishonest narrator'. A trick I like to use sometimes.

    An opinion please:
    In my current novel, the narrator changes tone, perspective and voice depending on the character in focus.
    One paragraph, cold and analytical, then muddled and rambling, then distracted, then empathetic, sometimes dishonest, and then talking about the human condition.
    Am I being non-structuralist?
    Or do we have to write as though on an acid trip, no time sense, no linear form, etc?

  4. Mike: I was having a stab at Barthes' obsessive meta-analysis technique (where he takes apart EVERY line of a story and applies multiple meanings to it) but in the form of some dyed-in-the-wool structuralist critic trying to write a story.

    Opinion: What you're doing sounds great, if a little schizophrenic. Are you leaping between characters or changing narrative voice within the same character in each paragraph?

    Either way, structuralism is best avoided for the writer who wants a career.

  5. Ah, Barthe.
    Never heard of the guy, but I've steered clear of all literature critical analysts since school.
    In my RCA days, I belonged to a film club. We used to wath Warhol, Snow, Bogdanovitch etc. I was a big fan of 'Real Time'.

    In real life, with real time, we don't get potted histories of many people - we discover a little bit at a time, in amongst doing lot's of other things.
    We also get to hear their versions (OK, self-deceptions, there - I said it).

    I have 7 main characters, and we drift from one to another along an almost linear time frame (the occassional move back in time is unvoidable) - catching up with one after we leave another.
    So, my narrator changes as we change who is in focus. And he quotes/believes a character's lies. Just sometimes the narrator gets to be his own man, expressing his own ideas.

    It sounds more complex, and more clever, than it really is.

  6. I very much like this idea, merely since I'm attempting something similar.

    Rather than the power struggle narrator of Belch, I'm shifting the narrative into the voice of each character to present events from different perspectives and to help define each character's voice. (Not as complex as yours, but in the same ballpark).

    You won't like this, but it was a technique my tutor recommended. But she's helped published a zillion books, so I'm willing to be a whore.

    I'd like to have a peep at your story. Compare ideas. Maybe even (gasp!) workshop something.