Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Books I Think You Should Read, part 2

Part 2! Part 2! Who could believe we would make it this far? I know I had my doubts. But since you're here I suppose you could take a look at my next book recommendation. 

If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino

Synopsis (from Amazon) “If on a Winter's Night a Traveler turns out to be not one novel but ten, each with a different plot, style, ambience, and author, and each interrupted at a moment of suspense. Together they form a labyrinth of literatures, known and unknown, alive and extinct, through which two readers, a male and a female, pursue both the story lines that intrigue them and one another.”

It took me three chapters and rereading the synopsis on the back of the book multiple times to figure out just what in the world Calvino was doing with this book. Every other chapter, labeled with numbers, is set from the perspective of You, the reader. The other chapters all have titles, because they are all the first chapter to ten different fictional books that You the reader are reading. And You the reader turns out to be a character within the novel that meets a girl in a book store reading the same fictional titles books you are reading and on and on and on. Also romance ensures (which I do have a soft spot for well done romance).

If you hadn't noticed yet If on a winter’s night a traveler belongs to the genre labeled metafiction and this was my first rodeo into said genre. I absolutely fell in love with it. Metafiction is a wonderful genre that wants you to read the book while realize you’re reading a book. Why is that important, you might ask, or more importantly: why is that cool? Here’s why it is cool. If you are reading a book that is on some level aware that it is a book or rather makes you aware that it’s a book then you become involved in the story. Literally. You are now a part of this story because the story recognizes you as a reader and also itself as a story. The story transcends your own imagination, becoming tangible, a part of your life beyond what you see in your mind. The interaction of the author and the reader becomes something more than storyteller but rather a real life tour guide through some already lived adventure. With the author addressing the reader the story seems to resemble a person's journal or someone recording history instead of some author making everything up. Though you must in some ways use your imagination when you read history, the accounts seem real and hold more meaning since real people lived through those events. Metafiction brings that same feeling to a reader while still maintaining that its all just a story. I know that may not makes sense for you if you haven't had the opportunity to read metafiction. The feeling of disconnect alone, of almost believing a tale that continues to claim it's not true while using techniques that make it seem like a historical account, though overwhelming will bring a new appreciation not only to stories themselves but to how people tell true stories. 

If on a winter’s night a traveler is not the first book to employ metafiction in this way or even to use metafictional writing in the most interesting and engaging way (see House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski) but I believe it is a seminal work within the genre. The story itself is engrossing and the metafictional structure and writing only add to the enjoyment instead of distract, which you run the risk of doing when you write metafiction. If you want to try out this genre this is the book I recommend. Be warned though, this is a challenging book to read. It can at many times seem slow (boring) but I believe it's worth while to finish even if it feels more like work at times than play.I know it is difficult to do, to read a difficult or even a seemly boring book. And yet if you're going to commit time to read a story wouldn't you want to spend that time reading something that's going to be great? This book is great. The effort is worth the adventure. 

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