Sunday, February 11, 2007
We're editing a first-person YA novel at the moment and I was reminded reading "How Novels Work" that Henry James was partly responsible for a dip in the use of the first person in novels: "The first person, in the long piece, is a form foredoomed to looseness" and "the terrible fluidity of self-revelation" and "it has no authority, no persuasive or convincing force - its grasp of reality & truth isn't strong and disinterested". A dip that has well and truly been righted with more than half the Booker prize winners of the last ten years or so being at least in part in the first person. I like first person but James' comments reminded me that as a child (not a teenager) I preferred the adult warmth of the 3rd person, the sense of sitting on the narrator's knee - and Ali, at black dog, said she too had preferred the first person. The first person seems peculiarly suited to the the intense egotism of the teen years.