Friday, May 8, 2015

Vague-Posting

I'm still reading Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James.  I'm on page 38.

So far the book is reminding me of a term my almost-Australian cousin introduced to me. VAGUE-POSTING.

Vague-posting is where someone posts something mysterious on social media in order to illicit attention.

Examples:

I'm so mad!

I want to kill him!

Certain people shouldn't be allowed to have children.

Ow! That really hurts.

I have such a great idea! 

I'm so excited!

Then the vague-poster eagerly waits for people to comment with questions. They want people to be curious.

To be fair, not all vague posts are written to seek attention.  Sometimes we're angry and feel a compulsion to express that anger; but we remain vague to protect other people's privacy.  I think I've been guilty of this before. I think it's a little less tacky than doing it to seek attention; but not much so.

Anyway....

What does vague-posting have to do with this book written by Rebecca James?

Well, the book does something similar to vague-posting.  James tries to get the reader's attention by teasing us with hints of information, but then holding back the rest of the story.

Wait...you might say. Isn't that what mysteries are all about? We get clues and we're supposed to put them together and figure out what's going on.

Yes. But the problem with the mystery in James' novel is it's the narrator who's holding back the information. She knows the secret, but is refusing to tell us. She reminds me of a vague-poster.

In the beginning of the book, we learn something awful has happened to her. It's big and bad; and she's keeping it a secret.  Then it's revealed that the horrible thing is that her sister died, and the narrator blames herself. How did the sister die? Why does the narrator blame herself? Does she truly deserve the blame?

Well, I'll have to keep reading to find out.

And I find that annoying.

It almost makes me feel as if the author feels the answer isn't that interesting. So if she tells us right away, we might quit reading. So....she teases us.

How long will the teasing go on?

I don't know.

I've read books where the author played that game for almost the entire book.

I won't declare that all coy narrators are a bad thing. I think every so often an author can pull it off...at least for a short period of time.  It's not like I expect the first paragraph of James' book to say, My name is Katherine. I'm unhappy because a few years ago my beloved sister Rachel was killed by a rabid two-headed crocodile. And it's my fault because I dared her to jump in the water. 

Actually, I take that back. I kind of like that as an introduction to a novel.

You know...I just thought of a novel in which a narrator holding back a secret sort of worked for me. I read it a few days ago. Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle.  In that book, the narrator has a secret that isn't revealed until much later in the story. Although she's not really coy about it. She doesn't drop little dramatic hints about it.  She doesn't say things like, I can't stand keeping this secret any longer. What if people find out what really happened?  There ARE hints to what happened; but they're nice and subtle.


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