Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

It started in detention.

Honestly most readers are more interested in the 'it' than in what is not 'it'. When 'it' started is obviously not as important as what 'it' is. So this is preamble, clearly illustrated with the pronoun rather than with a noun, an event. As this is a novel, presumably with a story, most readers will understand that something will happen, has happened or is happening because that is the nature of what a story is.

Nevertheless, some will think that this is an effective way to begin, because 'it' raises a question: what happened, what is this 'it'? But in point of fact, this is the same question a reader will ask, picking up a novel: What happens? That is to say, this opening line does not raise a question about the plot but about the very nature of storytelling: What's it about? With emphasize on the word it.

Next line:

No surprise there, right?

The reader has no way of answering this question. There is no way to navigate around the pronoun of the first word of this novel. Establishing tone before anything else is almost always guaranteed a fail. Attitude is important, but it is never the story.

What follows is a diatribe on detentions and rules and the authoritarian atmosphere of school. As this is first person, we get inside the character's head, which is nicely done, revealing the angst of the character, but that needs to switch sooner rather than later to the by now infamous 'it' of the opening line, which it does.

First thing said:

"Enough of that."

Well put.

Verdict: Fail

I like the title though, and believe it will attract a lot of attention in the bookstore.

Rudy Globird

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