Karen Joy Fowler: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Several folks whose judgment I respect urged all and sundry to read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves without reading any of the jacket copy or other reviews. If the combined weight of multiple recommendations wasn’t enough to convince me, my previous experience with Fowler’s short fiction and The Jane Austen Book Club was. I’d suggest likewise: if you trust me, just read it. A heaping helpful of the lazy litcrit clich&eacutes;s are absolutely true: it made me laugh, it made me think, and if it didn’t make me completely bawl, it certainly gave my tear ducts more exercise than most books. It also made me angry (not at the novel itself, mind you), and it made me look quite a few things up — unfamiliar words, a relative rarity for me, as well as scientific research and related events where I wanted to satisfy curiosity about whether what was presented in the text was essentially factual (it all was).

I spend a fair bit of time thinking about spoilers, the purposes and techniques for withholding information from readers (or viewers), the value of surprise in plots, and other such things. (I still resent having my dramatic experience of the 5th season of The Sopranosand Philip Pullman’s The Shadow in the North badly compromised.) And in that context, it might be worth mentioning that the reason for waning to not learn in untimely fashion what the book jacket presumably spills (I read the e-book; no book jacket copy included) is virtually unique in my experience. The narrator specifically and deliberately neglects to inform her audience of a fact or two because the narrator wants her audience to form opinions about aspects of the situation without the hindrance of a set of preconceptions that might otherwise be in play. It’s really not about plot, but it is intimately tied to the novel’s thematic content, and if you can manage it to comply, I think you’ll be rewarded.

Published by therealsummervillain

likes: equality, making things easier to use, biking, jangle, distortion, monogamy dislikes: bigotry, policies that jeopardize people, lack of transparency

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