Posted by: oneyearbook | March 30, 2009

Another POV on POV

Wag’s Revue, a new online-only lit mag, has an interview in their first issue with Wells Tower. The interview is worth reading for a number of reasons, including the story of how he came to write about carnies, and the inspiration for his much-discussed Viking short story (Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned – it’s the title story for his book), but he also goes into a discussion about why he chose to use the second-person present POV (very uncommon indeed) in one his short stories.

He says that he tried the same short story in both first and third person POV and found problems with both: “a kind of sentimentality was coming in the story … the narrator was treasuring the story too much, because it was his story,” he says of the first-person attempt, and of the third, “[it’s] nice because you can move your characters around like chess pieces … you’ve got this distance where you can make fun of them … you get to determine the resonances of the story with a bit more control in third person. But then the third person felt a bit too snarky.”

He ends by saying, “Somehow the second person just seemed like the perfect middle ground.”

I like that, seeing  authors battling it out on the POV question, and acknowledging the strengths and obstacles of both. Not that I’m saying I’m considering the second person – I tried it once in a short story and it was a disaster that I quickly rewrote in the third, although that didn’t realy improve the story itself that much – but just that I’m interested to see that he tried it three different ways before he was happy. (The story in question, Leopard, appeared in The New Yorker.)


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