June 5, 2008

Points of View

I think I've hit upon the one hitch I've run into while reading the Dark Tower series: the narrative viewpoint switches with far less warning than I'm used to.

Stephen King uses a third person limited (at least that's what I think...it's close enough) that I'd swear switches points of view without switching even extra paragraph breaks (I think...I blazed through The Gunslinger and The Drawing of The Three so fast I'm not sure).

I've gotten used to third person limited with switching view points. Terry Pratchett (so sad about his Alzheimer's diagnosis) and Robert Jordan (sad he died, even though his later Wheel of Time books weren't as good - or, were stagnant as the case seemed - apparently Brandon Sanderson is finishing A Memory of Light which will be the last book as planned) both use the method, with Jordan normally changing the focus at chapter breaks and Pratchett doing so after some extra blank lines (this is nominally because the switches are often short, and because he doesn't normally use chapters - only his "Children's" books and the "Moist von Lipwig" Discworld books are exceptions so far).

One of the more interesting books I've read in years past is My Name is Red by Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. I'll admit, I only started reading it because of my world literature class in college, but I kept the book and finished it later. It's a murder mystery told in a rotating first person PoV, where the narrator switches every chapter and isn't limited to the living. In fact, it starts out with the narrator being the person who has just been killed. From that point on, it goes through all the people involved in the murder and its investigation with unreliable narrators abounding. This is not to mention that occasionally the narrator is a color, like red, or drawing of a tree or dog. It's bizarre, but it's pretty good.


Brian Sullivan said...

I noticed that as well my first time through. In King's earlier books (I'm thinking 'Salem's Lot in particular), you can tell that his writing mechanics don't quite have the polish that the later ones do. That being said, I think his earlier books (aforementioned Lot, The Stand, The Gunslinger) have some of the best stories. I would actually recommend reading 'Salem's Lot, The Stand, Insomnia, and the first story in Hearts in Atlantis before getting to the end of The Dark Tower. Probably after book 4, which is a good stopping point. Black House is optional, but very good. Only problem is that it's the sequel to The Talisman, and this list already long enough!