Saturday, September 12, 2009

Big Machine by Victor LaValle

An enjoyable enough novel by the author of The Ecstatic, which I admit I preferred. LaValle is very very good at generating suspense to start (it was the plot in the middle where I kind of flagged)... he uses a classic mystery set-up and places a number of strangers in a remote location all gathered by some strange man with a plan. Because LaValle is so good with voice you'll happily go for chapters not knowing what's up because you like the narrator so much and so he can withhold information for quite awhile. Not to mention, about fifty pages in you meet a new character who has no connection to the narrator whatsoever until he describes her as"my future wife." So you can't help but read on to find out how on earth they go from the position they're in to being married in two hundred pages.

But what I wanted to mention is for a long chapter in the last third of the novel the point of view switches from first person to third person and relates the past history of the wife character. It's set up so that you understand she has told the narrator this story--but it's not told to the reader via his first person or hers. It's just set apart--given a title of its own--and dropped in. Which made me think you can get away with this kind of thing if you own up to what you're doing. Just switching without announcing the switch would have bugged me more. But this seemed okay. In my adaptation class we've been talking about handling flashbacks and I have a similar theory about them--they work best when the film acknowledges the change and doesn't try to make that flash seamless. In a number of ways LaValle is up front about writing a comic book in the form of a novel, and I suspect this third person section--a side adventure for a secondary character--may have also been under the influence of comics.

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