Monday, August 22, 2011

SPARK: Meta Monster

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m participating in Sparkfest this week and celebrating some of the books and authors that inspire my writing. This post is about meta-fiction and is apparently brought to you by excessive ellipses.

I love meta-literature and broken fourth walls, books about books, narrators who are well aware that they’re in a book, works that comment on themselves in creative ways... However you want to define meta-fiction, I'm a fan.

Every time I see it done well, it’s another spark for my writing and reading, a new realization about how texts can be connected and the bounds of narrative can be manipulated: Jasper Fforde’s series about the secret lives of book characters… the misleading stories-within-stories of Atwood’s The Blind Assassin…Lemony Snicket’s gradual transformation from what seemed to be just a pen name to a full-blown character within his own narrative… the characters in The Magicians who explore the reality behind a fictitious Narnia-esque series and explode conventions of the genre along the way… and my favorite film example, Robin Hood Men in Tights, in which characters argue over their scripts and accidentally run into the film crew during a sword fight.

It’s no coincidence that my favorite book for most of my childhood was The Neverending Story, which is about a boy who eventually enters the book that he’s reading (and that we’re reading along with him), blurring the line between the two. Ende even starts the book by cleverly manipulating text in a different way:

So many of my story ideas reflect my deep and enduring love for this book. It's not just the wordplay and storyplay (we'll just pretend that's a term) either; Bastian and his adventures are amazing and idea-inspiring all on their own. (The book is also so much better than the movie, no matter how catchy that theme song may be.) In fact, the more I think about it, the more I'm tempted to go reread The Neverending Story right after I finish this post...

But I realized that my love for meta-fiction goes back even earlier; I was reading a perfect example of it when I was incredibly young. It's a bestselling work of creative genius beloved by generations of readers, featuring a narrator aware of his book-bound existence and haunted by a terror that hints at an unknown self-loathing. It still resonates deeply with me today.

That’s right, I’m talking about Grover. 

 Meta-fiction and addressing the reader at their finest, brought to you by a lovable and furry monster.

What's your favorite adorable monster meta-fiction? Or what book inspired your writing's style, genre, quirks, or tricks?


  1. I love this blog post! It makes me want to read all the books you mentioned (I don't think I've read any of them!)

  2. Fantastic post. I've read that Grover book a long time ago and never thought about it in that way. The Neverending Story was a good movie. I had no idea there was a book! Thanks for sharing.

  3. That's awesome about the meta-fiction. I loved Robin Hood Men in Tights for the same reasons. :)

  4. Oh my gosh, I love this post!! That Grover book was one of my all-time favorites as a child. My mom used to read it to me, and I would feel all nervous as we turned the pages no matter how many times we had read it. Thanks for bringing back this fun memory!

    So nice to meet you, and I'm looking forward to following your blog. :)

  5. Thanks everyone! I definitely recommend reading the books (though I guess that's obvious) and I'm glad other people love and have good memories about them too :-D

  6. Great post! I first watched Sesame Street when I was 14. A little old perhaps, but it was such an intriguing show. The British H.R. Pufnstuf was neat, too.

  7. The Monster at the End of This Book is the BEST book ever! My childhood favorite! I delighted in turning every page and making Grover cry and plead.

    You sure brought a smile to my face with your post.

    The Write Soil

  8. Glad to hear it, Dawn :-D

    And Jackie, I would never judge you for watching Sesame St as a teen; I would totally be watching Square One and The Muppet Show TODAY if they were still on the air!

  9. Nice! Funny - I've read (and I love) The Blind Assassin and I've heard of a lot of the other books you mentioned, but I never knew there was an actual category for them - meta fiction! You're right, when it's done well, it's a slice of awesome. :-)