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Duplex
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October Weird Book Club: POV and Narration in Duplex

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Read Weird (readweird) | 6 comments Mod
Point of view and narration seem especially slippery in Duplex. There is a first-person narrator, but she is rarely present on the page. The narrator also seems to enjoy near-omniscience, slipping between multiple timelines and many different characters' points of view. What effect does this have on the story, and how does Davis accomplish this?

Post your thoughts about point of view and narration of Duplex here!


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Carlea | 20 comments I'm really fascinated by the disappearing narrator of this novel. I don't really have any idea who she is (figuring out which of the girls is which is nearly impossible, and probably beside the point anyway), and it seems like a curious choice when Janice and the curly-haired girl are really the two primary figures in these parts of the book. Unlike other 'disappearing' narrators I can think of (Nick Carraway is the most obvious example, or the narrator in William Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow), this narrator is hardly even present at all, and doesn't seem to have any compunctions about narrating events for which she could not possibly have been present. It's such a peculiar, wonderful move. It seems to ground the story in a specific moment and point of view (what "I" am perceiving or could possibly know), but at the same time, it leaves open a bigger mystery of who that "I" is, and how she could possibly have access to all the information she shares with the reader.


Lindsay | 18 comments Carlea wrote: "I'm really fascinated by the disappearing narrator of this novel. I don't really have any idea who she is (figuring out which of the girls is which is nearly impossible, and probably beside the poi..."

I was just thinking about how that disappearing or recessed or buried "I" narrator might almost emerge from a sense of a collective cultural consciousness? In some ways, these characters are living with a lot of truly horrific events in recent memory, and that fading "I" seems to be a member of this group of girls who dwell and ruminate on these really tragic events, even if they don't have immediate first person experience of them.


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Carlea | 20 comments Lindsay wrote: "Carlea wrote: "I'm really fascinated by the disappearing narrator of this novel. I don't really have any idea who she is (figuring out which of the girls is which is nearly impossible, and probably..."

I don't think that's completely implausible. After all, this is a world where people have "contact dreams" from living in too close proximity to their neighbors. The girls have dreams of the giant wave. I think those aspects do a lot to enhance this sense of a collective awareness -- as do the shared cultural touchstones like the Rain of Beads.


Lindsay | 18 comments Carlea wrote: "I don't think that's completely implausible."

Good point! I also wonder whether, if one were so inclined, it'd be possible to read as a sort of trauma narrative


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Carlea | 20 comments Lindsay wrote: "Carlea wrote: "I don't think that's completely implausible."

Good point! I also wonder whether, if one were so inclined, it'd be possible to read as a sort of trauma narrative"


Yes, definitely! I taught "Descent of the Aquanauts" once, and there were some readers who were definitely moving in that direction.


Lindsay | 18 comments The narration is really so deft, perhaps especially in the Janice sections. One moment I thought worked particularly well is on p. 36, from The Rain of Beads chapter: the MC in the chapter, the first victim of The Rain of Beads, rides a bike, of which Davis says, "The bike was a red Schwinn with a bell and a basket over the handlebars, sort of like the bike Mary used to have before she married the sorcerer and moved to town." Sentences like these do SO MUCH work, both in terms of time and narration. This is a surprising amount of information for the narrator to have access to; this sentence also gives us, in terms of plot, at least, a glimpse of Mary's trajectory.


Lindsay | 18 comments It also seems like there are a few moments where, whether intentionally or not, Davis has described the function or mechanism of this book. For instance, in the Descent of the Aquanauts section: "They were too busy listening to Janice. Even the curl-haired girl couldn't leave. That was the thing about Janice--she made you want to know where she was taking you, even if you didn't want to go." This last sentence feels so much like what Davis is doing in Duplex.


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