Gerald Murnane: A Million Windows


The latest addition to my website is Gerald Murnane‘s A Million Windows. This novel(?) follows on from Barley Patch, in that it is as much about writing a novel as a novel. We are presented with a narrator who, he tells us, is not the author, though the distinction seems to me, at least, to be somewhat fine, though Murnane insists that the the discerning reader, a concept he uses frequently, will be well aware of the distinction. We get more excerpts from his life, some of which we have already seen in his previous books, as well as his comments on how and why he (and others) write. He is quite dogmatic in his views on literature, damning Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller) and, with it, all what he calls self-referential literature, i.e what we now call metafiction, as well as criticising writers such as García Márquez, Grass, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy though he does like Henry James. He also condemns cinema – he rarely goes anymore – for having had a negative effect on prose fiction, writers’ guides, the unreliable narrator and, indeed, any literary approach which is not his. He does raise some interesting points about character, point of view and author-reader trust which, while I may not always agree with him, are certainly worthwhile starting points for a discussion about what prose fiction is, shoud be, can be and should not be. Overall, however, I got the impression that there is only one way to write a novel – his way – and no other way can be tolerated. Maybe, this is an old man’s novel – he was seventy-five when this book was published – and he is now too stuck in his ways. And, maybe, for a writer to be truly great, he has to plough his own furrow, ignoring and even despising other approaches but I think, for the ordinary reader, which I certainly consider myself to be, a more open mind to prose fiction is called for.

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