First-person Intimate

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

These instructive thoughts from Colm Toibin, in his New York Times Magazine (5/3/09) profile. The author of The Blackwater Lightship (one of my favorite books) and, newly, Brooklyn (on my list) avoids, he says, describing his protagonists, and this is why: "If you describe them physically, you actually remove them from the reader, you distance them. By not describing them, you begin to make their perception so intimately involved with the reader's perceptions that it allows the reader to enter into their spirit and become them. It's first-person intimate rather than first-person singular."

My deep thanks to the adorable Steph Bowe of heyteeanager.blogspot for her interview with me this morning.

10 comments:

Lilian Nattel said...

That's an interesting perspective. Food for thought.

Woman in a Window said...

Oh, I like that. It makes sense. Wear the skin instead of see the skin.

Melissa Walker said...

What a neat concept. Intimate. I like it.

Kelsey C said...

Beth,
My Narrative Theory/Experimental Fiction professor would eat this up. We recently read Robbe-Grillet's novel Jealousy where the protagonist isn't mentioned at all, only inferred. Fascinating :)

Take care!

Kelsey

Sherrie Petersen said...

Oooh, I like that. I hate describing my main characters physical attributes. It always feels false to me. I'll hang on to this advice :^)

Q said...

My c(b)p is in first person, and I'm not even sure what my narrator looks like. I only have a few vague ideas.

Beth Kephart said...

I am SO glad I'm not on this journey alone.

Anna Lefler said...

What an interesting way to look at it. I'll be mulling that over tonight...

...A.

Tessa said...

Brilliant interview from Steph!

Fascinating perspective - I cetainly agree. I'm not mad keen on being told what a particular protagonist looks like down to the last detail.

Em said...

Hmm, this is making me think back on some of my favorite books and whether or not the hero/heroine was described. I think it's a mix of both.

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