The Last Word

Just checked out the latest bracketology at the Tourney of Books from my corona-virus induced stint on the fainting couch. I'm kind of glad we're to be spared Frankie vs. The Bolano That Ate Contemporary Letters (assuming it survives its own zombie round match-up).

Anyway, my favorite Meghan leaves a spot on comment* following the latest clueless judging of The Disreputable History of Frankie Laundau Banks. A snippet:

Wow, it has taken me a long time to write this comment. Let me put it this way: Frankie inspires so much passion because it is one of the few contemporary books that I can think of (admittedly, completely off-hand) that addresses the seemingly-small, but daily, ways in which women are expected to minimize their own strengths in order to please men. And, yes, it's a book about a fifteen-year-old girl, but as any former fifteen-year-olds can tell you, that is the time when these dynamics start to manifest in force. It's also when they're the most powerful. I mean, who is more slavishly devoted to gender roles than a high school sophomore? Except the editors of Cosmo and certain screenwriters? And that fifteen-year-old self is always lurking around somewhere, ready to rear his or her head again. Especially when it comes to love.

I also think it telling that Lockhart's completely contemporary and absolutely inspired use of omniscient narration, the very thing that elevates the story to the level Meghan talks about, is something neither of the judges seemed to notice. But, again, probably best to read the commentary (bless you, guys) and skip the judging, for mental health's sake. 

*Disagree a teensy bit about the ending, but that's a discussion for the next time we're having drinks. Frankie for President.

5 thoughts on “The Last Word”

  1. I haven’t read the book, but I was interested by “completely contemporary and absolutely inspired use of omniscient narration”. Can you elaborate on those descriptors? Do you mean that omniscient is now “in” again by “contemporary” or something else? I guess I’ll have to read the book. I read a few pages on Amazon and it seems well written.

  2. I think omniscient is definitely making a comeback in realistic U.S. fiction — even YA. Though it’s still relatively uncommon compared with the frequency that Brits and Aussies use it (again, especially in YA and especially outside fantasy). I can send you a whole paper of reasons why! But I won’t, because I like you.
    Lots of people view omni as old-fashioned, and it certainly can be when used in certain ways. What I mean when I say a contemporary use of omni is that the author is not using the things that make it seem dated, but manipulating the POV so that the usage feels absolutely modern. Frankie is actually an unusual case, because it’s not “true” omniscient, it’s really limited third but without leaving the omniscient off the end like most of the limited third person we see today does. It’s not close third, basically, but Frankie’s is the only viewpoint the narrator visits. But there’s clearly a third person omniscient narrator at work, and that narration is what _makes_ the book so unusual and wonderful.
    Anyway, definitely worth reading — I think you’d dig it.

  3. Okay, okay, that’s what I was wondering. Yeah, a lot of people find omni old fashioned, and it’s definitely old fashioned if used traditionally, I think. But I’ve seen it being used more and more recently, and in breathtaking ways, so I know what you’re talking about with that. American narrative got really stuck in first person for a long time. Well, that and tight limited third. I’m at the point that I don’t enjoy tight limited third very much. I like povs that provide the intimacy of the first with a bit more flexibility of the omniscient, and I think that must be what you’re talking about with this book. I can imagine it, based on what you’re saying, so I’ll definitely give it a read.

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