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Present moment in narrative/mimesis

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AMCrenshaw

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For all that prose narratives can accomplish in terms of accurately reflecting 'reality' one thing I think nearly all if not all narratives fail to represent is a sense of an actual immediate moment, an "empty center" in which freedom can be realized. This isn't as much of an issue in film or in the various webcam/streams that occur, because their representations always unfold in what feels like 'real time.' But I have found that texts are always pinned to the feeling that we are reading something 'of the past' or something that has 'already happened' which gives the impression of predeterminism. Is there any way to escape this predicament? Have you read fiction that makes you believe in the basic freedom of its characters? If so please provide examples.
 

ColoradoGuy

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I think I know what you are getting at, the sense that a character in a novel is acting in real time. Perhaps the best approximation are various unreliable narrator constructs. Consider, for example, the Agatha Christie novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. In that story the murderer turns out to be the narrator himself.
 

AMCrenshaw

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Yes, perfect example, and my interest definitely stemmed from 1st person present tense narrations. Reading things like survivor or Fight Club by Palahniuk, but still having that feeling that it's all already done with (especially Survivor). The Christie example reminds me of a WiP I have on the back burner but deals with the same thing: The twist although a clear contrivance gives way to not only a feeling of freedom on the part of the narrator but also a sense of control or power. A re-reading may not yield the same results though, which is interesting to me.
 

Maxx

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For all that prose narratives can accomplish in terms of accurately reflecting 'reality' one thing I think nearly all if not all narratives fail to represent is a sense of an actual immediate moment, an "empty center" in which freedom can be realized. This isn't as much of an issue in film or in the various webcam/streams that occur, because their representations always unfold in what feels like 'real time.' But I have found that texts are always pinned to the feeling that we are reading something 'of the past' or something that has 'already happened' which gives the impression of predeterminism. Is there any way to escape this predicament? Have you read fiction that makes you believe in the basic freedom of its characters? If so please provide examples.

Paradoxically, Fiction has a lot of problems with narrative built right into the mix since (for example) it often tries to position its plausibility (ie. that you might want to just relax and take the narrative as something that "just happened") by suggesting that linguistically (in the past, that is some plausible past) the events recounted occurred...just as if somebody was recounting some chain of real events. This becomes clear when you compare a fictive narrative to a narrative of non-fictional events. For example, the series of things Arthur Compton did to isolate and describe the Compton effect (yes, I'm writing a "science blog" these days). Basically Compton spends ten years messing with experiments (say 1913 to 1923) and there are many narratives (including about 30 of his own accounts) of this and they are all different. To sort of top it all off...he starts saying things (by say 1925) that go along the lines of "So, if you look at my stories, you'll have to conclude that you just have to accept that you'll just have to live with the imagery of photons being both waves and particles. If I can live with that...and I tried for 10-20 years NOT TO LIVE WITH THAT...then you can too." And it just gets more involved from there because if you look at the QED fields involved, as you go deeper and deeper into the interaction OF REAL OBJECTS there are infinite loops and particles created from fields and double Compton effects producing "an extra real photon" (crucial in looking at the very early universe) and ways of calibrating polarization and so on...So fiction's problems with narrative seem kind of ...well... charming but not very close to what can happen with full narrative elaborations.