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By Austin Wright

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Sample text

He looked just like a bundle of clothes kind of washing up and down against the bank" (141). This (in the past tense, by the way) looks like a straightforward traditional first-person narrative; it could easily be spoken by Tull in his own voice to a listener at a later date. What do these differences show? Mainlyand they show this from the first verb in Darl's first narrativethat the characters are not the narrators who bear their names. They differ, or may differ, in at least two waysin their voices and in their consciousness.

We need a text, he said. Apply your theories to a text; that will test your mettle. What text, though? According to Birdsong it should be well known and good, one whose merit few would question, one that most students would have read. Tuttle proposed The Portrait of a Lady or Pride and Prejudice or Page xv Madame Bovary. Jackson said they were too easy. He preferred Naked Lunch or Second Skin or Omensetters Luck or The Voyeur. Too special, Tuttle said. We need one versatile enough so the question of modern versus classic won't confuse the critical issues.

It's not enough to say no such crossing is mentioned: the reader infers many unmentioned events, inferences we draw in all narratives, which depend always and necessarily on an implication of unspecified passing time. In this novel, for instance, there is that illusion of acceleration in the final stages, of nights passed, meals eatenevents necessary to the mimetic assumption which enables the mentioned events to cohere. (What is that mimetic assumption? It says not that the figures in the story ate such and such unmentioned meals and had insomniac nights but that as charactersimitations of people-they do not lack the attributes of people except such lacks as are mentioned.

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