The reader! You, dogged, uninsultable, print-oriented bastard, it’s you I’m addressing, who else, from inside this monstrous fiction. You’ve read me this far, then? Even this far? For what discereditable motive? How is it you don’t go to a movie, watch TV, stare at a wall, play tennis with a friend, make amorous advances to the person who comes to your mind when I speak of amorous advances? Can nothing surfeit, saturate you, turn you off? Where’s your shame?
Having let go this barrage of rhetorical or at least unanswered questions and observing himself nevertheless in midst of yet another sentence he concluded and caused the “hero” of his story to conclude that one or more of three things must be true: 1) his author was his sole and indefatigable reader; 2) he was in a sense his own author, telling his story to himself, in which case in which case; and/or 3) his reader was not only a tireless and shameless but sadistic, masochistic if he was himself.
John Barth, Lost in the Funhouse/ Life-Story
I often feel like a character-author of some plodding fictional tale, but reading John Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse makes me think I am not intellectually up to the task of being the author. So I must content myself to being a character, probably some bit part that moves a minor piece of the plot. Hopefully it is a piece that brings about some enlightenment, but most likely just some lightly humorous sidebar.
I have been wading through this dense little book until I got to the above passage and it made me think about what in my novel my character would have affected to any great degree. I came up with a few:
1) Through my marriage, I have affected the overall arch of my wife’s character, both in positive and negative ways. (Mostly positive, I hope)
2) I have helped conceive and raise 3 fairly stable, and as far as I know decent, thoughtful human beings.
3) Through teaching I have influenced parents to adopt more thoughtful parenting strategies and plan their lives taking into account the needs of their children. Now whether this leads to actual improvements, I can’t be sure, but I know that I have influenced parents to make changes.
4) There have been many times when my inaction or passive denial of facts has lead to misunderstandings between myself and others (friends, families and others). And, though I don’t think I could be considered the villain of any piece (But then what well developed villain would actually consider himself so) I could be a piece of the machinery that undoes the protagonist of someone else’s story. There may be people out there who don’t like me and think I am a thoughtless wretch.
So what does all this mean to me at this moment. I am not sure. As a writer it makes me think of what the hell do you write after reading this. As a character, I think about ways I would write my story so it is more like one I would like to be in. Maybe I will write a happy ending, but we all know where this story is going. It is what you do before you get to the end that counts, or doesn’t depending on who is writing or reading. Just give me one more sentence, but not this one.