Friday Five (and a Half)

Southeast LibraryStaff Picks

Friday Five (and a Half)

Meta-Blogging About Meta-Fiction

David stared at the screen, fingers hovering over the keyboard. It was his turn to write for the weekly library blog, and he didn't know what to write. He had signed up to write about sustainability, but quite frankly, he had that covered in the LibGuide he was writing.

A Tale for the Time BeingWhat was more on his mind was the book he was reading for the library book clubA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. Ozeki did something in the book that he hadn't seen in a while; she inserted herself as a character into the book. David was a sucker for stories like this because it gave him a chance to see an author's mind on display, overtly trying to solve a problem of telling a new story. Ozeki's strategy was refreshing because she, an American buddhist of Japanese descent, was thinking through how to write a book about what it's like to write a book about Japan and the United States and Buddhism and nuclear power and Hello Kitty. These kind of stories excited David, and he thought it might be fun to write the blog about that kind of meta-fiction in which a story is about itself.
8 1/2

Indeed, reading Ozeki's book made him think about a pivotal moment in his film-going life – seeing 8 ½ by Federico Fellini, that wild film in which Fellini - burdened by both the success of eight completed and beloved films and an inability to start a new one - decided to make a film about this strange challenge of making a ninth film. Wow! What a trip. 8 ½ was one of the titles that David always recommended to people to make sure they knew how cool and intellectual he was... that he got it!
 
breakfast of champions
Just like Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, which he read in high school. Even before Fellini or Ozeki, Vonnegut was the first author who David encountered trying to pull off this post-modern trick by putting in a stand-in for himself – in the character of fictional author Kilgore Trout. And unlike Fellini or Ozeki's sincere and poignant insertion of themselves into their work, Vonnegut's strategy was mischievously satirical and cheeky.
Lemony Snicket biography

Cheeky like Lemony Snicket's books, which David loved because an author (his real name is Daniel Handler if you want to read his adult books) achieved this feat in a set of children's books – two series of more than fifteen books full of fabulous vocabulary lessons and self-referential weirdness. Not only are the books funny and demented; they tell a beautiful story about three siblings surviving hardship and protecting each other. And how many children's authors go out of their way to educate young readers about pasta putanesca?! And who writes an unauthorized autobiography? Brilliant!
 
Bad EducationBut perhaps his favorite example of this kind of thing was Pedro Almodovar's film, Bad Education. Although there's not an overt stand-in for Almodovar, it nonetheless portrays a Spanish movie director reading a close friend's tragic biography and contemplating how to translate it into a film... a film which we the audience are then watching Almodovar himself create. Like Ozeki, he has simultaneously made the film and made a film about the film. 

Thinking about these things exhausted David, and he gave up without writing the blog, failing to solve the problem that these five authors had solved.  He also wished he could include one other writer of meta-fiction who didn't exactly put himself into his novels but did have his characters reading the book in which they were contained and slyly creating a mind-bending web of fiction within fiction within fiction. David was a sucker for this kind of story too, and if he had succeeded in writing his blog entry, he would have included a Snicketish hidden link to this author's works, making his Friday Five a Friday 5½ David Mitchell's books are amazing! Read them now.