Monday, June 18, 2012

I should but teach him how to tell my story.

    When I first began reading Money by Martin Amis, I felt there was something different about it, but something I couldn't quite put my finger on.  It eventually hit me however, that the book was written in first person.  John Self, the protagonist, is telling his story to me, the reader.  But after quickly going through my first 54 reads from this list, I realized about a third of the books have been first person narratives, including a lot of my favorites too; Brideshead Revisited, The Great Gatsby, and Midnight's Children just to name a few.  First person isn't unique at all.

But Money still seemed to strike me as a little different.  It isn't as if it has been a while since I've read a first person story (notwithstanding the amazing amount of time it took to read The Recognitions); numbers 51 (All the King's Men) and 50 (Red Harvest) were both told in this fashion.  As my reading continued however, I realized that perhaps it was the narrator talking to the reader that had caught my attention, the breaking of the 'fourth wall.'

I think in literature, every first person narrative is, in a way, breaking the fourth wall as we have to assume the narrator it telling the story to the reader.  This isn't always the case of course, as in Portnoy's Complaint where the story, in first person, is being told to a psychiatrist, but usually it is to the reader.  But in Money, the narrator doesn't just break this wall by talking to the reader, rather he engages the reader, asking questions, looking to the reader for approval, and even acknowledging that his words are in a fictional book and being read by somebody.

None of this is really groundbreaking or anything, but it caused me to sit back and think about who was telling the story, or perhaps more accurately, how they were telling the story.  I'll admit I never really paid any attention to narrative mode when reading, but I think that is probably because I don't know a lot about it.  To fix this, I've done a little bit of secondary reading, trying to learn to better appreciate, or at least understand, these different techniques.  This has led me to two conclusions.  First off, I would classify Money as metafiction told in first person.  Second is that I should have taken more English classes in University because I find this all very interesting.

Obviously the point of view is an important part of any writing, and I'm beginning to wonder if this has been one of the things I've been missing in a few of these reads.  Perhaps this is the reason I didn't enjoy certain books that so many seem to love.  If that is the case, I suppose I could count this as another benefit of reading through this list.  Maybe it has been reading books I wouldn't normally touch with a ten-foot pole that has forced me to look deeper into the writing, which in the end will only make me a stronger and more sophisticated reader.  And I don't think that's a bad thing.


  1. G'day mate. I'm reading through the list too! I'm up to 30ish books though, and I'm looking for other people doing the same thing. My blog is over at, so have a look and I'll keep checking up on yours.

    What's your favourite book that you've read so far?

  2. Good to hear from another reader of "The List"! It looks like we haven't read too many of the same books...I've only read 11 of the 34 you've read so far.

    What's my favorite? That's a tough one. I'm torn between a few; Gone With the Wind, Lolita, and The Sot-Weed Factor. Lolita is brilliant and perhaps the most well written book I've ever read. The Sot-Weed Factor was fun and entertaining and a real hidden gem, while Gone With the Wind was just all-around fantastic. But then there's also I,'s too tought to name just one!

    How about you? What's been your favorite so far?