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Archive for the ‘notes from the palmerston’ Category

second person – stub post

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In my (contractually limited) fictional endeavors, I find myself falling as if automatically into the second person. The damned you. We all know that this is a more than problematic form, as presumptuous as it is claustrophobic… Wish I could kick the habit.

But on the other hand… And I’m not saying that I’m exactly getting this all the way through at the moment… Another way to look at the second person voice is that it it is a potentially destabilizing, dislocating intensification of the basic presumptions of normative bourgeois fiction, which despite the fact that it’s generally written in the third or, increasingly, the first person, always inevitably involves a sense that you, you normative but cosmopolitan bourgie reader, are right here along for the ride, an acceptable overseer of these sorts of occurrences, situations, affairs. You belong in Ian McEwan’s sitting room or bedroom, or, in a touristical mode, wherever else that the humanitarian aid-working forces of fiction might bring you.

The second-person voice has the potential to render all of this rather uncomfortably close. This is what we might call the political unconscious of agents’ and editors’ resistance to the form. It’s less salable because less readable because it presents itself, self-consciously, as the locked box of bourgie subjectivity that fiction is meant to permit us to inhabit but only ever without letting us see the walls of the cage that we, as we scroll through in our hardbacks or Kindle versions, are currently in.

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January 15, 2011 at 3:31 pm