Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Novel of Frames

Koch’s The Year of Living Dangerously is a cleverly structured novel, using the time honored, modernist technique of frames to tell the story.   

At first, we are unsure who is telling the story of Billy Kwan, Guy Hamilton, and Jill, until about half way though, when we realize that a journalist close to Hamilton is in control of the narrative.  “Cookie” is much like Marlow in Conrad’s novels, a man close to the action, but also detached.  He is moved by events, but able to keep his distance, and hence his cool.  He can tell the story from his own viewpoint, but also that of conversations with Billy, Hamilton, and also Billy’s strange and contradictory files.

The Year of Living Dangerously is a simple story, but Koch adds dimension and complexity to it with his clever use of frames, and his gentle touch in doing so.  Rather than taking us through wild rides of shifting view point and orientation, the material is organized for us, with a thesis to be advanced.  And we, the readers, are given the data.  And we can either accept the conclusion or not.

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