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A Way of Seeing

Last week, I signed a debut novel in which the narrating main character is blind.

(I'd name it for you, but it has only a working title.)

We’ll publish the novel in the fall of 2011 and will be describing it fully to the world in the weeks before publication. But there's something to be said even this early: The reader of this novel can see what is happening, page by page, turn by turn, even though the main character cannot.

The narrative moves beautifully, unfailingly and fascinatingly forward, and the means by which this writer portrays the world he leads us through are unfailingly clever. The story, which is heartfelt and pressing, is also perfectly visual. In fact, it’s a road story. As I first read it, I could see the path of the car and the crowded back seat. I could see the scenes of the hurricane and the flood, the roadside confrontations, the drug dens, the shakedowns, the flirtations and seductions, the characters’ leaning into one another, the stumbling protagonist’s becoming lost on mean streets.

The agent made a special effort to reassure me about this before I requested the manuscript, a special effort to reassure me that the novel runs on its images, its rich descriptions, even though the protagonist cannot see.

But without having read the book, you already know this.

When you come to the book next year, it will take only a few pages before you recognize that this is what all good novelists do, what they must do. This is, in fact, the art of storytelling. It is the richest depth of language. A novelist is a singer of tales. And what we’re talking about here is the visual reward of reading.

Yes, the novelist allows us to live lives we could not otherwise. We say this all the time. We also all know that the novelist lets us feel what we should feel when we connect with another human consciousness, however fictional. It is empathy, ours and the author's, that makes a novel worth reading.

But on a more fundamental, or more practical, level than this, without a canvas and without a screen, the novelist makes us see.

To read a good novel (or to hear a tale well sung) is to see through words.


Joni Rodgers said…
Wow. I can't wait to lay my hands on this book. Congratulations to the author, who's undoubtedly doing a grand happy dance today.
Barbara Sissel said…
This so perfectly defines the magic of a book for me and the nature of my fascination with reading. And I can't wait to have this one when it comes out!

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