Sunday, July 25, 2010

We Apologize For The Inconvenience.

There's nothing new in the concept of the characters in a work of fiction directly addressing the readers (audience, viewers, spectators, etc.). It has been the implied conceit of the first person narrative since Antiquity. When Lucius Apuleius tells in The Golden Ass his personal story of religious enlightenment through his transformation into an ass and his sexual exploits in that form, he addresses the readers directly. It is, perhaps, the earliest surviving first person novel in Western Literature. Since then, authors have made use of the device in different ways, often bringing themselves forward as the central character, often bringing themselves forward to comment on the story or the character, often becoming both the central character and the commenter. Latterly, authors have been stepping forward as creators, minor deities, who reveal themselves as both the makers of and participants in the stories they are telling. The classic example is Kurt Vonnegut, who appears in his books as both a first person narrator in Slaughterhouse Five, and as an author, Kilgore Trout (e.g. Cat's Cradle), whose works bear a curious resemblance to the works of Vonnegut himself. It's become all too common in comics. Pastis is a recurring character in his own strip. Doonesbury and friends are always addressing the reader, acknowledging their comic nature. Now Barney and Clyde are aware of their own natures, too. The strip would have been more interesting had the above quotation from Douglas Adams been shown.
(The cited Vonnegut identity paradox led to the exchange in Supernatural between Dean and Chuck about which Vonnegut Chuck was in his series of Supernatural books. Chuck, of course, was revealed to be God in a controversial scene in the last episode of Season 5. Or possibly not.)

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