A rare semi-serious post from Bear Allen. You've been warned...
“Unreliable narrator”. You hear that term bandied about in so many book reviews. And, let’s be honest, it’s usually seen as a negative. And this harkens back to the idea that characters have to be “likable” to be considered realistic or relatable.
First of all, let’s be honest. The most unlikable people you know are the most entertaining. Two words… Kanye. West. Do you want to be friends with Mr. Immaletyoufinish? Probably not. But he sure is fascinating to watch as he goes about his days in a haze of arrogance and designer clothes. And really likable people are rarely interesting enough to read 200+ pages on. Do you really want to read yet another fluffy human interest story about Taylor Swift being genuine and giving? Barf. Maybe you would enjoy that. Well great, you’re a better person than me so on top of this making for a boring story, I also feel like crap about myself. THANKS A LOT! At least Yeezus temper tantrums and socially awkward outbursts make me feel like I’m CRUSHING IT, human being-wise.
So… the unreliable narrator. Of course the narrator is unreliable. All people are unreliable. We’ve all heard that saying “There’s what she said happened. What he said happened. And then there’s the truth”. We all walk around this world with our own perspectives and values. And you better believe those alter our perception of reality. Without those differences, no books would exist. Because all people would think the same way and would, therefore, not feel the need to share their opinions with the greater world in the form of novels, poetry, short stories, angry tweets, screaming out your Toyota window at crappy drivers… Oh, that’s just me?
YOU are the unreliable narrator. YOU are the unlikable character. We all are… because we’re human. We live and breathe and make bad life choices. Our poor decision making skills might not be as drastic and obvious as those of Gillian Flynn’s Amy or Paula Hawkin’s Rachel. But we are all the unreliable narrators of our own stories… and I don’t know about you, but I know for a fact that I’m occasionally unlikable. Hell, I have many a day where I can’t even stand MYSELF.
We are the unreliable narrators.
And that’s what makes life, and stories, so fascinating. So you may not like unreliable narrators… but I freakin’ love them!