Friday, September 23, 2011

Unconventional Narrator: Brian Selznick

In his novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick introduced us to a striking and, to my knowledge, unique style of storytelling.  Hugo Cabret alternated between prose narration and sections where there were no words, only pictures.  In other words, the pictures were not illustrations of the words: there were sections where the words told the story, and sections where the pictures told the story.

Hugo Cabret was a great book that suffered, I think, in the story department.  Now Selznick is back with a new-this-month encore called Wonderstruck.  Wonderstruck uses the same narrative technique, with a slight twist: from the beginning, the book tells two different stories, parallel but fifty years apart.  One of them is narrated (almost) entirely in prose, and the other entirely in pictures.  Late in the book, charmingly, the stories intertwine, and the storytelling becomes more Hugo Cabret-esque, alternating simply between words and pictures carrying the same story.

Wonderstruck is a stronger story than Hugo Cabret.  Without giving away any plot twists, Wonderstruck is also about deaf people, which makes it a story singularly suited to Selznick's unique narrative chops.  This is a wonderful book.  You should read it for its charm and human warmness, and you should read it for an example of innovative storytelling.

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