Point of view, time, place and story

99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style by Matt Madden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a lot of fun, especially for fans (like me) of comic book art. Madden has a skillful pen (and brush and photographer's eye, because he uses various media), and is good at imitating the styles of other cartoonists he admires. The question he poses (as did Raymond Queneau, whose 1947 book Exercices de style inspired this one) is whether, by changing point of view, tense and tone, we are really telling the same story.

Like Queneau, he begins with a very simple (rather silly) anecdote: comic artist (Madden) gets up from his desk to go to the refrigerator, is interrupted by his partner's question about the time, and forgets what it was he was looking for in the refrigerator. That seems to be a story about forgetfulness. But when the point of view is that of the refrigerator, it's about the ridiculous and confused meddling of human beings with the calm mechanical life enjoyed by the 'fridge. Or if the p.o.v. is of the lady friend who asks the time, it's about the unreliability of her partner. And if it's set in the future on a space ship, it may be about the bewilderment caused by supersonic travel. And so on.

No, it no longer is the same story if, for example, the Odyssey is told from the point of view of Leopold Bloom in Dublin in 1904, instead of the weary, crafty warrior Ulysses on the sea in the far more distant past.

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