Two sides to the story: Multiple versions of stories in twentieth century narrative
Frangipane, Nicholas Alan
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A number of contemporary writers of literary fiction are attempting to tell mimetic stories in their books. But this raises the question, how can writers tell realistic stories once many modernist and postmodernist writers and theorists have convincingly argued that stories cannot meaningfully convey knowledge? In “Two Sides to the Story”, I answer this question by examining literary works from throughout the twentieth century that tell two versions of their stories. I argue that many contemporary writers both accept the lessons of their modernist and postmodernist predecessors and, at the same time, try to find a way to tell mimetic stories by both calling attention to what they cannot know and also reminding us of the unique types of information that narrative can convey. This is most clearly visible in the books I call “Reflexive Double Narratives”, which feature stories that split into two versions and narrators who comment on why they have told both versions. These texts provide the key to read a much larger group of novels that contain what I think of as “Implied Multiple Narratives”, that is, their narrators hint that their telling is incomplete, evoking multiple, untold versions. Finally, these post-postmodernist ideas are also reflected in many contemporary novels that focus on useful yet faulty memories. These split stories tend to remind readers that the stories they tell convey “qualia”, or what it feels like to be a particular person in a particular situation.