McLuhan believes the message of the printed book is about point-of-view, if I remember correctly. That’s not the only thing, but that’s the thing with the printed book, getting across a point of view. So the novel is about a point of view. It is, I think, what they now call the author’s voice. It isn’t necessarily just the author’s only voice, but it is the point of view from which the speaker’s voice is issuing, or can be heard to issue by the reader. I think it makes sense. The main thing you want to figure out about a story is the point of view you’re getting across. It seems clear to me.

I was making sense of some of the things I do by reading a chap who got the whole point of view thing exactly correct when he did Bertram Wooster. If the medium isn’t the message in his best stuff, then what is? P. G. Woodehouse developed a wondrous point of view by having young Wooster speak and for effect ping his slangy, fast-paced and unselfconsciously ironically humorous observations off of Jeeves, a reading kind of chap. Oafs, I note, and blighters would not enjoy the Woodehouse patter, nor ponderous types, though chumps like Bertie, I expect, would.

Michael Drout (wondrous lecturer, get all lectures by him on anything you can) in thinking about why fantasy and magical realism are two different things, says it has to do with style. Magical realism adheres to the conventions of realism in which the innovation must be stylistic. That is why what we still call mainstream literature deals in stylistic phenomena, and the rule is that the rest is conventional: the world of everyday experience. Drout’s point is that magical realism introduces wondrous stuff, but only makes conventional use of it and still focuses innovation on matters of style. Fantasy, on the other hand, is conventional about style and narrative, conventional in general about technical matters, but not about its content, and that is the difference.

Or was. In our electric age, things, if McLuhan is correct, are imploding—which also makes a lot of sense. Drout is quick to point out that what we think of as mainstream literature is really niche literature (and I think it should be) and that the real mainstream by sales and popularity is more the realm of speculative literature. Anyway, it all helps me figure out what I’m doing, plus the fact that I figured out what is so special about my protagonist, and it turns out to be key.


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