When I read a novel, it is like watching a movie. Sometimes it’s a really long movie that runs sporadically over a few weeks, and occasionally some of the characters look a bit different when they come back on screen, but I ‘see’ it all happening in my mind’s eye. Which is why it really bugs me when an author purposely blinds me.
I was reading a novel by an author I really like, but they refused to show me the main protagonist. There was clearly something up with his appearance, and I watched him walk around dark streets and avoid people, but I didn’t get to ‘see’ him. This went on for three chapters. How am I expected to craft the movie of this novel if I can’t even see the main character?
I think I’ve bemoaned the unreliable narrator before, but this is different. This is wilful omission that both author and reader are aware of. It’s like someone pixilated the lead in the film and expected everyone to just go with it.
I have to confess I put the book down. Who knows, maybe in the next chapter the author did the big reveal, or maybe I was going to be forced to go through the whole novel so I could have an a-ha moment at the end when suddenly it all made sense. Regardless I’ll never know. For me, the appeal of the novel is being able to get into the skin of the main protagonist and learn with them along the way. If they have some kind of physical issue that impacts every facet of how they live their life, then I think I should know about it on page one.
Clearly that is just my opinion, and there will be loads of people out there who love that kind of book (oh wow, all this time he was actually the pet dog!) – which makes me wonder, do some people actually read books and not make their own movie?