Archive for December, 2013

What Does the Waiter Think?

Friday, December 13th, 2013

I was once told by a writer that writing from more than two characters’ points of view was an accepted no-no.  I never did check whetherwaiter this was indeed established wisdom, but I’m happy to report that Hector Tobar broke this ‘rule’ at every turn to my great reading pleasure.  The Barbarian Nurseries revolves around four family members and their housekeeper.  Not only did all five of these people – children very much included – get multiple chances of having the story seen from their perspective, but Tobar also regularly let you know what the bus driver or the guy in the car as the kids crossed the road was thinking.  In lesser hands it is easy to see how this could have been disastrous, or the very least annoyingly distracting, but in The Barbarian Nurseries it was always hugely illuminating.  It is one thing to abstractly know that everyone – and I mean everyone – has their wholly unique perspective on what’s happening before them, and it’s another to have this so finely illustrated.  I struggle with more than two points of view so the rule, to the extent it is one, works for me but sometimes it makes all the difference to the story to know what the waiter thinks.