Saturday, April 18, 2009

Beginner Mode

Even in fictions of knowing, been 'round the block, protagonists, the introductory pages are always framed in this learning-the-ropes, fish out of water, frame. Whether a novel or short story becomes a bildungsroman, its first bits will always follow that model. Except, arguably, for Sherlock Holmes stories, because Holmes learns and grows roughly at the rate of dead coral (see, The Woman for further evidence), and that's why Watson's always a step behind.

This model allows a presumably ignorant audience to be babystepped in alongside the protagonist (or documenter, if the protagonist is already competent), and therein lies the rub, as they say: the reader is presumed ignorant. Why? Isn't it conceivably better to have - couldn't you get ages more mileage from - an audience who are already up to speed with you and moving at the same pace? It would force the author to keep up with the audience, for one, and I'm a firm believer in pushing everybody. Death to the author who can't run at the same pace as an audience who're holding the other end of the noose around said author's neck. Death to dead weight (and once dead, they can pause a bit and catch up at their own speed).

What would that look like? I mean, you would have to assume the author and the audience can keep up, and everybody would have to be responsible and paying attention, but, heck, shouldn't they be? Shouldn't readers read responsibly? Should not the author be paying attention?

Suddenly, large chunks of the literary scene look cruel and parasitic, others lullingly symbiotic, but little of it appears synchronous.

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