The short story and poem analysed at today’s Tricycle Readers group were both by writers about whom there is little information although their writing is included in anthologies of important works.
As the conversation circulated, new lines of inquiry kept presenting themselves. It was like being in a literary incident room with a team of detectives puzzling over clues, trying to find the link that would unlock the writer’s modus operandi. Were we reading a piece of dystopian fiction, a pre-David Brent parody on the office, the fantasy of a sick narrator, or a metaphor for all human engagement?
Later, I posted up the links to the texts, and there followed a lively Twitter exchange with a reader who brought God into the equation.
Fiction provides us with opportunities to explore and experience other lives and landscapes through the eyes of someone who takes us up close and personal, and we have our own part in the story. Our knowledge and understanding underpins the narrative. We fill in the missing gaps and we raise questions about the assumptions, outlook and reliability of the narrator.
Within a literary criticism group there is a diversity of outlooks and we lay different theories over each other finding common lines of inquiry and testing them. We rarely reach a consensus, but in trying to reach a consensus texts come alive and bristle with possibility. Like the designer of a racing bike the writer has given us the machine, but how we use it and where we take it is our prerogative.
Today’s investigation centred on the vocabulary, the choice of names, the manipulation of mood and tone, the intentions of the narrator and the iconography of a bleeding hand… There was little to go on as little is written about the lifestyles or preoccupations of the writers. The changing of inflection on a single line of the poem turned our analysis on its head: which interpretation did the writer intend?
As we put away our deerstalkers, I wondered if it might be worth reopening the case at a later date…