Bringing the Book to Life.

Now that we’ve essentially killed an author or two (read the previous two blogs…), it’s time to bring the book to life. 

Or well… at least bring my project to life. 

At the beginning of this module, I didn’t know what exactly to expect. I thought we might be looking at a few history critics and exploring a bit on the internet. But instead, my appreciation for the book as an object has increasingly grown. I have realised that each book has a way that it wants to be presented and this generally reflects the story.

Pale Fire tormented us with its demand to read the commentary before the poem and made us question the unreliable narrator. However, through this, we were only made more clear that it is the reader who holds the choice and power. Whilst, Nox provided the clear argument that books have no fixity, but also created the argument between art and artifice.

Moving on to modernism and post-modernism, we were able to view how authors have played with form and presentation. This is something that I have thought about when planning my project. I do not want to simply ‘make a book,’ but instead, I want to bring a book to life. Playing with intertextuality and materiality.

I have chosen to reflect the module concerns through my own version or rather Briony Tallis’s version of Ian McEwan’s Atonement.

P.S. SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!

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Now that anyone who hasn’t read one of my favourite novels ever has left this blog to go buy, read, steal (from your friends obviously!) and love Atonement, we can get down to business.

Ok, so as many of you know Atonement has a seriously heart-wrenching twist at the end, (think Game of Thrones Red Wedding… but maybe toned down a little). Briony Tallis reveals that the first three sections of the novel have in fact been her own creation and atonement in order to create her own reality. I’ll explain the plot quickly in case anyone has sneakily read on… In the first section, Briony is a thirteen-year-old writing fanatic, she loves writing stories, making them up in her head and sometimes (unfortunately) sharing this fiction. She, unfortunately, reads a very inappropriate and accidental letter that was meant for her sister. She immediately regards the sender, Robbie, as a maniac and blames him for the rape of her cousin. Essentially, Robbie is sent to prison for a crime he doesn’t commit and is kept apart from his true love, Briony’s sister, Cecilia. Part two is based in Dunkirk where Robbie is now a soldier but continues to write love letters to Cecilia. Ian McEwan basically researched this whole part of the novel, using inspiration from the likes of Gregory Blaxland (Destination Dunkirk) and Walter Lord (The Miracle of Dunkirk). Similarly, in part three when Briony has become a nurse, Ian used inspiration from Lucilla Andrews’s autobiography, No Time for Romance. However, there was some controversy about this section as Andrews argues that she was not given enough credit for McEwan’s ‘copying,’ In this section, Briony finally meets with Cecilia and Robbie, happy that they are finally together, and apologises for what she has done, promising to try and fix the mistake as she knows it wasn’t actually Robbie who raped her cousin. And happily ever after….

Or at least that’s what you think until you turn the page to reveal a section titled, London 1999. 

This is where McEwan reveals his metanarrative to shock his readers and destroy any hopes of a happy ending. Briony reveals that Cecilia and Robbie are actually dead. Grab the tissues 😦 As mentioned before, she also tells us that this her novel and her way to atone for her sins (of writing in the first place.) She reflects that she wants to give them a happy ending in some format, even if she destroyed that chance in real life. She even reveals that it was Paul Marshall who raped (his now wife) Lola, but that she can’t publish the novel until they’re both dead, for legal reasons. Briony also reveals she has vascular dementia (remember death of the author?) and will soon ironically lose her memory that was the cause of this problem in the first place.

This is the section that has inspired me most for my project. The meta-narrative at the back of Atonement could be easily missed for maybe a note from the real author, something I personally don’t read unless I’m using the book for study reasons. However, when read, it changes the story completely for the reader. I want to play around with the form of this and completely bring the novel to life as Briony Tallis’s own creation. Like Nox, I want to make the book more intimate and real for the readers, as I further my investigation into the death of the author.

Throughout Atonement, there is intertextuality, intertextuality, and MORE intertextuality. It’s essentially a book about a book about books… Confused yet?

I hope to explore this more and also bring these elements to life, allowing the reader to explore them while they also read the novel.

Essentially, I hope to show the non-fixity and instability of the novel, whilst turning it into that book-as-an-object we talked about in week 1. Focusing on the materiality of the book and giving the reader the power in what they choose to read.

A novelist is always engaged in the complex dance between the real and the ideal, manipulating and re-ordering detail…

 

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