RARA-AVIS: Re: The undependable narrator / 1st person POV

From: Dick Lochte ( dlochte@gmail.com)
Date: 17 Aug 2006

There should be a distinction between an outright lie and an obfuscation. In his Burglar books, Larry Block will have his narrator, Bernie, say something like: "I ran a few errands and ..." with the errands being crucial to the denouement. I think quite a few, if not most, first person private eye narrations indulge in that particular form of holding back key bits of exposition. Otherwise, the professional sleuth would have to arrive at the solution no sooner than the non-pro reader. The Op, for example, has to know the real villain behind the Dain Curse before he or she is exposed, but Hammett would clearly prefer the reader be kept in the dark as long as possible. My feeling is that the fair play in these instances would be in providing the reader with enough clues to arrive at the right answer regardless of the dependability or openness of the narrator.

Dick Lochte

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