Search This Blog

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Going nuts about Nutshell

     I need to talk about Nutshell.

     I recently finished reading Ian McEwan's Nutshell, his 17th novel (I believe) and I suppose I have no business questioning the man's writing but that is exactly what I am going to do.

     First, let me say I loved the book. And I loved it from the first sentence, "So here I am, upside down in a woman." It is brilliant. Everything about the book is brilliant.

     But the whole time I was reading it I struggled with the point of view. By that, I most definitely do not mean that the PoV is that of a fetus. I did not struggle with that and see it as the reason for much of the brilliance.

     Nor am I referring to the fetus's ability to talk, think, reason, or imagine. I accept all of that as brilliant too.

Nutshell-Ian-McEwan.jpg (1024×360)

      No, I struggled with the first person PoV of the fetus only because it seemed inconsistent to me, so here I ask for your help. Was I wrong in that? I felt like it fluctuated and did so frequently from first to omniscient. It made me pause many times in my reading. Now I grant you that the average reader wouldn't have had as much trouble with that as I did, say a person who isn't spending a good two hours per day wrestling like a WWF star with PoV in her own novel, (or someone who hasn't taught prenatal development at the college level) but it gave me a lot of trouble.

     Early on I decided to accept anything the narrator could have heard no matter how implausible (the flip of a notebook page), and only question that which could not be heard, thus the narrator could not have known of it. I also let go everything the baby could have known, even temporal knowledge, by way of his mother experiencing it. Even with those allowances, I examined how the fetus could have knowledge of a great many things. Some just seemed impossible to me. A few of these might have been OK to slip in when absolutely necessary, (is it?) but I felt there were far too many. The editor I am currently working with would not let me get away with that for even one paragraph! There were so many of these that I began to question myself. Was I getting something wrong? What say you?

     A few examples are:

Speaking of his uncle on page 111: "Now he feels like getting up. It's 6 p.m., he notes. Enlivened, he stands, stretches his arms athletically with a creak of bone and gristle, ..."

Again on page 117: "Now he's at her side, sharing the view, trying to find her hand."

On page 144 going on at length about a social media site giving us seventy-one gender options.

On page 158 again of Claude: "He knows he must be kind. But kindness without desire, without promise of erotic reward, is difficult for him. The strain is in his throat."

    Well, you get the idea. Am I being overly critical? Can a writer be inconsistent in PoV? Or am I nuts?


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting.