Favorite books of 2011, part 5: Metafiction

Yes, I love metafiction. I love those moments where a story becomes aware of the fact that it is a story. I love narratives that deconstruct themselves. I love genre savvy characters who break the fourth wall. This attraction to going meta has penetrated my personal life as well: every time I disagree with my husband, I have to draw our attention to the way we’re arguing and whether or not it is a loving, fair way to argue. My favorite TV show right now is Community, the sitcom about sitcoms, and if it dies I will cry meta tears.

Going meta makes books, TV, movies, life fun.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Others have called this series Harry Potter for adults, and it’s true. The students are quite a bit older, and sexually active. When Quentin accidentally witnessed a friend’s kinky sex, then I knew we weren’t in Hogwarts anymore. Once “the beast” shows up and kills a student, there’s a sense of menace that Harry Potter doesn’t approach until at least halfway through the series. Fillory, the supposedly fictional magical world that Quentin is obsessed with, is much more like Narnia, though, which should be obvious. I loved how in this world, magic was really difficult to learn, and it seemed like the characters earned the awesome stuff that they could do. And eventually they treated each other like shit, like real young adults, and had some real consequences to their magical traveling, and felt some horrible losses.

Why do I call this metafiction? Throughout the book, explicitly at times, but mostly implicitly, runs a metaphor comparing magic to reading and writing, and reading and writing to magic. When they do magic, Quentin and his friends are like authors making the world anew. Brakebills is like an MFA program. When Quentin and his friends go to Fillory, they’re like kids having fun in an imaginary world of a book. In this way, the novel is about reading, writing, and imaginary worlds. Can’t wait to read the sequel!

The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall

This book is from a genre I really like that I call “retellings,” for lack of a better term. They’re books that tell classic stories from a different point of view, or otherwise enter a conversation started by a previous work of literature. The best examples of the genre change your view of the original work forever. Some other good retellings are: The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, The Wicked Years series by Gregory Maguire, Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund, Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike, Dracula in Love by Karen Essex, Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King, Jane by April Lindner…I could go on and on.

This novel tells the story of Gone with the Wind from the point of view of Scarlett’s half sister, daughter of Mr. O’Hara and Mammy. Throughout the whole novel, the protagonist calls Scarlett only “Other,” which will make anyone who’s ever read postcolonial criticism chuckle, but which I think was also motivated by lawsuits or fear of lawsuits from the Mitchell estate. The kicker is that she steals Rhett from Scarlett! I loved the way this book centered attention on the slaves and their story, using the book that probably did the most to over-romanticize the Civil War and antebellum period and turning it on its head.

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4 thoughts on “Favorite books of 2011, part 5: Metafiction

  1. Pingback: Favorite Characters | MeReader

  2. Pingback: The Southern Festival of Books 2014 | MeReader

  3. Pingback: Southern Festival of Books Recap | MeReader

  4. Pingback: The Magician’s Land | MeReader

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