Something that occasionally crops up in literary discussion is the issue of the unreliable narrator, where the reader gains the perception that whoever is telling the story is being economical with the truth.

Perhaps the opposite of that trope is the intelligent narrator.

Having seen the film adaptation some years ago, I finally read Fight Club, the debut novel by Chuck Palahniuk. The story is told in the first person, and it takes a little time to become accustomed to the style.

But what shone through for me was the intelligence of the character telling the story.

Sure, he makes some questionable decisions, and that’s part of the charm of the book. However, his decisions are always based on his own logic and knowledge. For instance, he knew the chemistry involved in making explosives; he didn’t simply mix ingredients together and hope for the best.

I’ve long been drawn to novels where the narrator knows what they’re doing – or at least gives the appearance of such.

I was reminded of Layer Cake. This was based on the book of the same name by JJ Connolly, and could feasibly have been set in the same universe as Fight Club, such are the parallels in their styles.

Here, the unnamed narrator takes the same approach to selling narcotics as a chief executive might approach a legitimate business deal. He isn’t bumbling through life, and has a clear plan to leave the lifestyle by the age of 30.

And in the film adaptation of Trainspotting, Renton appears to be the most educated among his friends. I can’t speak for the novel, but I imagine he’s very similar in that.

Perhaps the most intelligent narrator in fiction was also created by Irving Welsh. In Filth, part of the story is told by a sentient tapeworm.


Last week’s entry was about the problem of enjoying Graham Linehan’s work while disagreeing with his views. Since the entry was posted, it’s been reported that West Yorkshire police have given him a verbal warning about harassing someone online.

The whole issue led to some civilised discussion with friends. It seems our consensus is to try to separate the creator from the creation, so I think that’s the tack I’m going to take for the moment.

 

 

 

 

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