Metafiction & me


Lucky me, I work from home, part-time, and can usually set my own hours. Lately I have been taking looooong lunch hours during which I knit and listen to podcasts & audiobooks. This is a radical departure for me. I have a very strong preference for visual information over auditory. Such a strong preference, in fact, that I sometimes wonder if I have a hearing defect or some kind of auditory processing disorder.

What led me to start exploring audiobooks, finally, is the knitting thing. I have just come back to knitting after a 5-year hiatus. I am making couch cushions. My goal is at least 4, and possibly 6 or more if I can stand it. At first I was listening to music while I knitted, but music only sustains me for so long (while knitting, I mean; my life revolves around music on many levels which I’m sure I’ll blog about soon). Finally I decided to bite the audiobook bullet. And lo, I am now realizing how much I’ve missed out on, all these years. I’m having quite a blast poking around the internet and finding stuff to listen to while I knit.

Last week I found an awesome treasure trove: The New Yorker’s Fiction Podcasts — writers read out loud their favorite stories written by other authors, and discuss them with the interviewer. Hence yesterday’s Italo Calvino… and today, omg, I listened to that cutie pie Salman Rushdie read “Concerning the Bodyguard” by Donald Barthelme (click here to hear it yourself).

I already knew that I adore Salman Rushdie, but this was my first introduction to Barthelme. Well! “Concerning the Bodyguard” is a short story told almost entirely in questions. The questions center around a bodyguard who is guarding a person that, you gradually realize, is a very high-ranking politician. You also gradually realize things about the bodyguard, and there is even a small bit of plot but you have to listen carefully to catch the progression of events. It is very subtle, very clever, and very sadfunny. Must. Read. More. Barthelme. (Mr. Rushdie’s comments afterwards are equally fascinating, by the way. Especially when he talks about his own intimate familiarity with bodyguards.)

Salman Rushdie

Donald Barthelme

I don’t read ’em every day, but I am very fond of those macho postmodern metafiction dudes who experiment and take risks. Rushdie & Barthelme of course, and also John Barth, Paul Auster, Thomas Pynchon, all those guys. Yes they can be intimidating. I know that I barely scratch the surface of what they have to offer and I know that when I read them I am missing tons because I am so, laughably, not their ideal reader. But I like them because they make me work. I don’t like to be spoonfed. I like writers that show respect for their readers by not explaining every little thing, by not answering every question, by making you think.


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