Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Order of Things, by Lynne Hinton

Click to buy the book!

Lately I've become fascinated with the idea of "perspective" relative to any artistic endeavor.

A new concept? Hardly. But for the first time outside of literature courses, I'm finally tackling the concept and the ways in which it affects the story told, the feelings conveyed, and the effects on the reader/viewer/listener.

The Order of Things, through the use of extensive dialogue, accomplishes the feat of having, essentially, two narrators--the first person narrator of the text, and the next-door inmate at the mental institution who talks with her through the night.

I remember from high school English classes the term "untrustworthy narrator." I don't think that the narrator of The Order of Things is untrustworthy in any malicious sense; but, like all of us, her view of the story she tells--what is important, the intent behind actions, the way other people worded their statements, even the way in which events unfold--is entirely dependent on her own memory and interpretation of events. In a sense, then, the second narrator in the text is doubly untrustworthy because his recounting of events is streamed through two filters, leaving the reader to determine which bits are "true," which are fabricated, and which have been unintentionally altered in the telling.

The question of what exactly "truth" is might here be appropriate. I'd rather say, though, that while I agree with Hinton's use of first-person narration in this book, I would love to see the story done as a play. A one-act, even, where the audience sees two people who cannot see each other sharing stories through an air vent. Leave the audience to witness both narratives on an equal plane. Omit the inner musings of a single character--rely fully on the dialogue, the setting, the voiceless expressions of the actors to relay the intricate unfoldings of the night.

If anyone wants to take that idea and run with it, feel free. I don't expect credit for it. Just comp tickets to the world premiere, please.


  1. You're back! And it was only three months! Hooray!

    I can't wait to read more.

  2. The untrustworthy narrators are my favorites! Movies are of course so good at playing with this (see for example "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not" with Audrey Tautou), but when a book does it well, the impact can be deliciously catastrophic for the reader! Glad this book played with that literary aspect.