Chris Adrian - “The Sum of Our Parts”

This is about as omniscient as perspective gets. I’m starting to think omniscience, the way we use it now anyway, is not so much about having an authoritative voice serve as a guide through a twisted maze of multiple characters, times, any other confusing aspects that can stack up on in a story. It’s not a choice made for logic or logistical purposes, but for an effect. In Bel Canto, I wouldn’t be shocked if Ann Patchett would admit to using the omniscient voice (instead of the roving limited third) just so the epilogue would have the tone she wanted. These two people getting married should not be getting married, they are wrong for each other. The omniscient perspective makes it feel like the universe has betrayed us. With all the authority of complete knowledge, things still don’t turn out like they should.

Likewise, there’s something that feels just wrong at the end of this story. Wrong about how Luke acts, and wrong about how Beatrice completely forgets him the moment her body dies. Her affection for her own death is uncomfortably large, and this grand narrator with all its access and freedom can do nothing about it.

Jorge Luis Borges - “Inferno I, 32”

“(T)he machinery of the world is overly complex for the simplicity of men.” That about sums it up. The omniscient narrator best emphasizes the unexplainable, the stuff that feels beyond our comprehension, or the non-story. This story is extremely brief and only shows us this lack of comprehension by Dante and the leopard to show that there is actually a pretty simple and honest connection between them, and their destinies to play two parts in the creation of a great thing are not so difficult for the audience to comprehend once the narrator has explained it. But Dante forgets upon waking, as does the leopard. If we were Dante, I think this might be representative of the effect that omniscient narration can have. That we have access to a consciousness that understands, but just when we think we’ve figured out a way to borrow that consciousness, something happens that totally disproves what we thought was going on. We wake up from the dream and can’t piece back together why it’s important.

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