I’d like to throw the limelight on the figure who lurks in the shadows of novels like the wizard of Oz behind the curtain. The narrative voice. A few books I’ve read lately lend themselves to the analysis of voice, that diction that imbues the landscape of the novel with its unique tones and hues. I’ve found myself ruminating a lot on this topic lately.
Two books that struck me as having a very strong narrative voice that I’ve read lately, were McInerary’s, Last of the Savages and Fitzgerald’s, Great Gatsby. In both books a character bears the narrative voice. In the Great Gatsby, Nick is the reticent, passive character, narrating rather than participating in the events of the story. Similarly, Patrick in Last of the Savages bears the reflective, often cynical voice of the author.
Nick narrates darkly when he first meets Jordan, “Almost any exhibition of complete self-sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me” and when first dining with her, Daisy and Tom, says of them, “…their impersonal eyes in the absence of all desire.” Patrick narrates the tale of his friendship with Will Savage, and it is his derisive outlook on life that once again causes the character Savage to shine in the same way Nick’s perspective brings Tom, Daisy and Gatsby to life.
The narrative voice of Patrick is similarly dark. He says of his mother that he is “…acutely embarrassed by her sheer volume…” and that his “father, as if to compensate tended to recede…” And Patrick’s very passive, cynical character and narrative contrasts and in turn imbues life into Savage’s character that gives the story its vitality: “His very aloofness seemed to attract those who were less self-contained and he did nothing to discourage these satellites.”
More lately, I found myself examining the voice in the short stories by Franco Marincola (Check out Franco’s voice here if you haven’t read his wonderful work). Franco said that he, like myself, is more interested “in the process of life than life itself.” I think this really does sum up the narrative voice, using characters as smoke screens from whose tongues our words and outlooks roll off.