Monday, October 09, 2006

The seduction of narrative

  • Novelist Richard Powers is interviewed at
A great interview with a terrific writer:
Jill: What is, ultimately, so seductive about story, so primal about narrative?

Powers: It's explanatory. It's a shaping device that orders the world. For instance, they've determined that cranes and other migratory birds make these huge migrations of thousands of miles, but they do it by navigating via local landmarks. So somehow, they're able to communicate, to teach their young, on the basis of a kind of symbol-space — first this, then this, then this, how to make these necessary movements across the entire globe. And there's a lot of suggestion that syntax grows out of the machinery for spatial orientation. Left, right, above, beyond, behind — these kind of spatial orientations underpin the deep structure of language.

When you think about the function of language to create a syntactical, meaningful sentence, to order elements in such a way as to suggest some kind of whole coherent thing, coherent in time or coherent in logic or coherent in some other kind of arrangement of data, to think that it's spatial is very revealing, isn't it? That narrative is somehow a spatial arrangement of all our observations about the world.


-L said...

The interviewer is Easley's own, Jill Owens (class of 94). Small world.

Jason Comerford said...

Sigh... would that all who emerged from Easley had such good taste...