Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More self-reference

I wrote recently about a musical reference in L.C. Tyler's novel The Herring-Seller's Apprentice. In addition to citing Berlioz, the passage is self-referential; its narrator is a mystery writer relating a problem he once had writing a mystery.

Here I'll catalogue a few more such references. Along the way, I'll share some thoughts about types of self-reference – without ever using the phrase authorial consciousness.

The novel's first chapter begins: "I have always been a writer. I wrote my first novel at the age of six. It was seven and a half pages long ... " That's clever and endearing.

Chapter Ten begins: "If there's one thing that gets up my sodding nose, it's starting a new chapter and finding that the poxy narrator has changed" – narrated no longer by the author, naturally, but by his coarse-mannered agent. That's pretty funny.

Chapter Four: "Perhaps at no time other than our own could a man reach comfortable middle age without confronting a dead body in the cold flesh." Less directly self-referential, all the funnier for its jab at the tendency of amateur sleuths to find dead bodies in greater numbers than do members of the general population.

Throughout: several musings by the protagonist upon the craft of writing mysteries but, most interesting, the effect that the novel's "real" mystery – the disappearance and apparent murder of the protagonist's former and long-estranged wife – has on his own stalled writing career as the investigation of that "real" mystery deepens:

"(I)n the damp autumn Sussex countryside, I forgot such troubles as I had seemed to have and started to see a picture of a sultry summer's evening in Buckford.

"Fairfax is sitting at his desk. He is once more contemplating retirement. And he is deeply troubled, though it is not yet clear about what. ... What happens next? I don't yet know. But the story has started flowing. And this small trickle may gather pace and become a stream, then a torrent that will carry the story off, who knows where? But that hot summer night would be the starting point."

Now, let's see where the story ends.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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Blogger Will Hoyle said...

I wrote my first real story right after I graduated high school. I was 16 pages long. But eventually, it turned into my third novel, Black Lamb. Good times.

June 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

After high school? Sixteen pages?

You were a late starter and prolix to boot, I'd say.

June 16, 2009  
Blogger Will Hoyle said...

Yes, I didn't know what I was doing. I was a late bloomer, for sure. But it all worked out in the end. Kind of. I'm yet to be published.

June 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You probably have a few good years of writing left. I wouldn't despair yet of being published..

June 16, 2009  
Blogger Len Tyler said...

Speaking as somebody whose novels are fairly short, sixteen pages sounds good enough to me.

Anyway, I'm following the posts about Herring Seller with great interest. I too am curious to see how the story ends.

best wishes

L C Tyler

June 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the comment. The young author of that sixteen-page doorstop grew into a lover of Roman history. A reader of Gibbon, unabridged, perhaps?

As I peel away layers of mystery, I may reveal what the L in L.C. stands for.

June 16, 2009  

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