Calling all narrators…

The first time I paid attention to the narrator in fiction consciously it was in Wuthering Heights where you get two for the price of one. But neither of them are reliable. I can debate the relative merits of Nelly Dean and Mr Lockwood as narrators (but don’t worry, only in private not here in cyberspace!) for hours. Some time after this first encounter with ‘the narrator’ as something ‘different’ I was moved by the ‘narrator’  in The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway. His ‘second hand’ one step removed ‘positioning’  in the novel was a source of much fascination to me.

Move on some years and I got really hacked off with Barthes and his whole Death of the Author thing. I’m a writer (maybe even an author) and I’m definitely not dead. I stand firmly in the author intentionality camp. If a writer doesn’t have a clue what they are doing when they write, I can’t help but ask myself why they are doing it. I like a sense of purpose. I like to feel something was written because it meant something to the writer, not just because it was thrown together to make a bit of money and serve a market (niche or otherwise). Or because one likes the sound of finger on keypad. Or just likes the sound of one’s own written ‘voice’.  It was F.Scott Fitzgerald who said ‘write because you have something to say, not because you want to say something. And this message is engraved on my writing heart!

But this is all by way of introduction. Over the years I’ve encountered many narrative voices and most recently I’ve come to see a certain ‘positioning’ of narrator in the text that I find particularly interesting.  In 2007 I wrote a serial novel Another World is Possible in which not only is there an unreliable narrator, but it’s quite unclear who the narrator actually is.  I had my reasons for this.  One of them was an exploration, in fiction, of the ideas of narrative psychology itself.  The text itself explains most, if not all, and there is plenty more I can say about it. Not here. Later.

Over the years I’ve  found several other interesting examples of ‘narrator’ lurking around in contemporary fiction which interest me. Dennis Potter and B.S.Johnson are ‘well known’ examples but I’d like to find more ‘indie’ writers who are ploughing this particular furrow. I’m going to be ‘hosting’ an event at the online Edinburgh eBook Festival in August, which aims to debate and explore why the narrator may be stepping in for, or on behalf of, or somehow hiding the author in our post-post modernist world of contemporary fiction.

At present the works under consideration are Dan Holloway’s ‘The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes’ and Brendan Gisby’s ‘The Preservation of the Olive Branch’ as well as my own ‘Another World is Possible’ But there’s room for more.  So if you’ve written a novel in which the line between narrator and author is either finely drawn or interestingly connected then please do get in touch with me.  If I can get it read in time and if you as author are happy to be ‘interviewed’ regarding your ‘intentions’ then your work could be included in this event. You have to be prepared to ‘open up’ about your authorial intention and the relationship between author and narrator and character. You have been warned.

And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry. No one died. No narrator. No author. But if this is double Dutch please DON’T send me a book simply because it has a narrator in it! Normally I’m not elitist but I’m only looking for ‘a certain kind of narrator’ in this instance. It’s not equal opportunities for all narrators day today. Sorry.

More about the three works currently under scrutiny can be found by following the links below

‘The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes’    Dan Holloway

The Preservation of the Olive Branch’          Brendan Gisby

Another World is Possible’                           Cally Phillips

And of course all are available for purchase through a variety of outlets. 


About callyphillips

3 Responses to Calling all narrators…

  1. danholloway says:

    Thank you! For me the standout example is the film Man Bites Dog. I was about to reel off a great long list when it struck me just how few examples I could think of in teh self-published world. Even some of the great indie examples such as Sam Pink’s I Will Clone Myself Then Kill Myself Then Eat Myself are small press published. It raises a concern that would be very well worth addressing at the conference – the abject lack of artistic ambition amongst vast swathes of teh self-publishing community.

  2. Many thanks for including “The Preservation…”, Cally. Looking forward to the debate at the eBook Festival… and all the other events, of course!

  3. Hey Cally, how would I go about submitting to your narrators please?

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