[LMB] unreliable narrators

Paula Lieberman paal at gis.net
Mon Apr 24 04:14:00 BST 2006

----- Original Message -----
From: <megj at nwlink.com>

> > Examples, I need examples.
> Not going to happen -- I'm typing this at work as it is (yes, on
> Saturday).  No time to fish them out.
> > As I understand it, there is the unreliable narrator who is unreliable
> > because they are not omniscient (as per the unpersonalised narrator),
> > the unreliable narraot who is not reliable because, well, they are not
> > reliable.

The protagonist of the novel _Howl's Moving Castle_ is someone with a
variety of misperceptions regarding e.g. her sisters' interests and core

Mr Magoo of the old cartoon series is a highly unreliable narrator, since he
hears things completely incorrectly....

> I think Miles is both -- the first, obviously, since his books are in
> tight third person and we only see what he sees.  But I think he is to
> some extent unreliable because he sees things a lot of the time the way he
> wants them to be or the way he thinks they are instead of the way they
> really are, so I think he's the second type as well.
> But then you differentiate between:
> > With the uninformed, unreliable narrator, their is the question whether
> > the "omniscient reader" knows or can deduce that all is not as it's
> > cracked up to me. With the informed unreliable narrator, you have to be
> > very on your toes to deduce that you're being lied to.
> And I *don't* think he's an informed unreliable narrator, in the sense
> that he as narrator is keeping information he knows from us.  *Lois,*
> OTOH, is keeping information from us right and left, but then that's one
> of the main jobs of a good author -- choosing what we as readers should
> and should not be told.

Skillful writers describe scenes in fashions in which the reader gets to
second guess the viewpoint characters especially if the viewpoint characters
are unreliable narrators--that is, the author uses a voice and conveys
information such that the reader has the opportunity to compare what is
there versus what the viewpoint character's opinion in.  I have  particular
strong dislike for voices in which the author doesn't provide that sort of
support, but rather sticks the readers into the character and expects the
reader to appreciate being shoved into the character's head as if the reader
is that characters and reacts and thinks and perceives the way the character
reactds and thinks and perceives.   Books with that sort of viewpoint, such
as e.g. Snowcrash, I tend to have violently allergic reactions to.

I don't have allergic reactions to Lois' work because among other things,
she doesn't that I have noticed use that auteurial device.

> Meg
> who wrote this little bit between patrons and really should get off the
> email now

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