(As an aside, do you know why metafiction is called metafiction? – I only found this out the other day, reading – as you do – some AJ Ayer. – Well, it’s an analogy to metaphysics of course (this isn’t pointed out by AJ Ayer, who says nothing of metafiction himself), and do you know why metaphysics is called metaphysics? – Even as a classical scholar myself who knows full well that the Greek word meta means either after or with, I’d always assumed that somehow it also meant concerning the inner nature of, or something of that sort. Anyhow, no: it’s because Aristotle wrote a book called Physics, and then he wrote another book – and since it ended up in his collection after the book called Physics, people called it After-Physics, or Metaphysics. Hence metafiction: meaning after or with fiction. It’s all explained on goddamn Wikipedia.)
So, to Lydia Davis. I bought this book () because I’d heard Lydia Davis was an interesting writer, and a bit experimental – in the way that Tom McCarthy is a highly experimental writer. There’s even a Guardian article linking them together in a congeries (sc. heap?) of experimentality which, a few years ago was threatening to overwhelming us, but which seemingly didn’t. On the basis of this book (The End of the Story), I’d go along with the Tom McCarthy analogy: put forward as experimental, but in fact exactly like all other contemporary literature.
Some advice to writers of metafiction:
- I know you’re a novelist, you don’t have to tell me.
- I know you’re writing a book.
- I know that you’re actually engaged in writing a book while you’re writing it.
- I know that I’m reading a book.
- I know you’re making it up and you could write it differently.
- I’m aware that fiction isn’t the same as life.
- I’m unlikely to appreciate any assumption you might make about how I’m interpreting / appreciating the book.
- I know that you’ve given thought on how to structure your book but (and this is where things get interesting) …
- … if you’re still struggling with how to structure your book as you’re actually writing it, rather than telling me about it, why don’t you go back and re-structure it if you think it would be better
- … if you think it would be better to start again or to tell it a different way, why don’t you do that and, if it’s any better, send that to your publishers instead and I’ll read the new version
- … if you think you’re being too repetitious, why don’t you edit some of the repetition out, rather than just point it out to me (or pretend that repetition is a common facet of life you are endeavouring to portray)
- … if you feel you can’t express what you’re wanting to say, perhaps don’t bother writing books after all.