Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Ceremonies, narration

The Ceremonies by T.E.D Klein was a really satisfying read. It's a long nasty novel about a dark god rising in a small village 80 miles out of New York.

My major insight from it is that descriptions in novels really work when they are taken from the POV of a character. Omniscient narration always reads a little flat to me. Narration from the point of view of a setting (to get across the rich atmosphere of a fantasy world, for instance) can be engrossing or annoying depending on the writer. But narration like this:

"Holding her breath, she entered the kitchen, rinsed out a few glasses - no sense letting the repairman think she kept a dirty house - and wiped off the counter. In the living room she fastened back the curtains, wondering if it was safe to leave the old TV set unguarded and decided that no one would want it anyway."

The whole novel is constantly providing character through implication. Each character's narration has certain motifs that are repeated through the novel - Carol (above) is neurotic,
a romantic dreamer and easily scared. Jeremy Friers, the extremely unlikeable hero is repulsed by nature, a lazy intellectual & sexually frustrated.

In fact implication is a big thing for Klein. The narration from above continues:

"She notice several strands of black hair on the rug near the foot of the couch. There's always something of Rochelle's here, she thought as she picked them up between two fingers and released them out the window. They drifted downward on the summer breeze, floating like a spiderweb."

That's paying off a nasty moment earlier in the book. And The Ceremonies is filled with stuff like that. Violence is not seen - it's alluded to and its effects are only glimpsed and hinted at much later via TV reports and gossip. For a book that features some of the gross-out horror it does, it's pretty subtle stuff.

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