don’t tell, show
Having attended classes and work shops in creative writing and after reading extensively on the subject, there are certain points that keep appearing. One of the most applicable in the case of this week’s novel is descriptive writing. We all paint different pictures in our heads from the words we are given and that is one of the most beautiful features of literature. There is no need for everyone to see the situation the same, they can change it to fit their perception of the world, of themselves. You can leave bits out, include something off the page and no one will ever now. It’ll be our little secret. However, if one lets go of the fine print, there is still talent to be witnessed in descriptive writing that forces us to view the world through the eyes of the author.
What makes this novel so gripping is that the character of the narrator seeps into everything, even the chapter numbers – a truly beautiful detail, showing Christopher’s obsession with prime numbers. The simple, clipped sentences and the matter of fact tone all make us both see the world through Christopher and Christopher through the eyes of the world. It would have been easier for the author to state in the beginning of the novel exactly what kind of ‘disorder’ he suffers from. This would have enabled us as readers to do a quick Google search and define Christopher even before we meet him. Sometimes he reminds me of Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory. It is never clearly stated what is going on, yet there is something that everyone acknowledges and acts upon. Without definitions, we are left with a quest through the pages and a journey to understanding without prejudices, which is what we should all thrive for, shouldn’t we? Rather than forming expectations, let’s just look at what is on the page and go from there.
said this, meant that
Christopher (for the record, I am struggling way too much with spelling his name, I knew I should have started writing earlier..) is obsessed with truth. No, not really obsessed, it is more like there exists to him nothing else but the truth. He cannot tell lies and does not understand their ‘value’. Do lies have value? Sometimes they spare us from pain. Sometimes they are a way of telling a truth without having to utter the precise words. To Christopher, they have little to no value and instead serve as warning signs. When he learns of his father, the deception is so great that he embarks on a journey barely within his capabilities. First of all, does he have it right? Should we cut people out of our lives when we catch them in a lie? But how could we retain anyone since everyone lies? How could we ourselves exists without the occasional “yeah, that haircut looks great!” or “this is fantastic, could I get the recipe?”? It all comes down to the reason behind the lying. One could argue that good intentions make up for the bad deeds. In the novel, Christopher’s father did not mean to hurt him by not telling him about his mother, I refuse to believe that (no matter how unappealing he is decribed otherwise). He did it because he saw no other way out.
Another point that I could make it that sometimes we only see what we want to see in order to keep our world from falling apart. We close our eyes from the ugly, distorted reality in order to keep our pretty bubble from bursting. This does not mean that we don’t acknowledge the thorns on the other side, but for now we are choosing the ignore them. This is not exactly how Christopher’s mind works though. In a way, he is at the mercy of others for such knowledge. Although a mathematical genius, he repeatedly struggles with language and social interaction. Metaphors, similes, hyperbole, puns, those are only a few things that encompass my whole degree! I could not imagine having a casual conversation without a pun or two, a metaphor thrown in for extra effort. But if I am stripped of these tools, how can I truly express myself? Are truthful, factual words enough to satisfy a literary junkie? Luckily I don’t have to make a choice. Then again, I do sometimes find myself relating to Christopher as I stand mystified in the middle of a conversation where British words and phrases fly. At least I don’t have to carry with me a chart that tells me how to read expressions. Then again, that would be useful sometimes…
– Jatta –