Who is the damned tea basket? That’s what I want to know.
I’ve read my share of books by authors I know personally. But there’s a certain added complexity–unexpected–in reading a work of fiction by an author one knows personally. A reader scans every page wondering if a particular piece of the plot is true, or if the event on page 37 really happened, or if the character introduced in Chapter 8 is a real person or based on a real person or an unrecognizable composite of a dozen real persons.
And then, when such an author–one the reader knows personally–employs a wickedly clever technique of basing characters loosely on other real persons the reader may know personally, only crafting them into composites that are one part Person A and one-half part Person B and six and one-half parts pure fiction, the mind begins to spin like a Tilt-a-Whirl in zero-gravity.
Maybe that’s just me.
When readers submitted questions for discussion of The Novelist, several referenced the characters. (And rightly so. Aren’t they, in the end, what makes the plot go round?) I find myself resistant to forming answers to the questions about who or what they represent, who I like or dislike and why (gosh, it might be a friend I end up disliking). Despite all that, I really do dislike Geoffrey and just don’t want to talk about him.
But it occurs to me that there’s another character worth discussing.
The tea basket.
Oh, don’t give me that look. The tea basket is more than a brown-stained mesh cup and you know it. The tea basket is one who is present most strikingly by his or her absence. Its role is critical to telling the story and pointing to other truths. In many ways the tea basket holds things together until the very end. It is a character as sure as the day is long.
If I was a tea basket, where would I hide? Laura amused herself with such imaginations, when looking for lost things. Sometimes it worked. She’d found the Adrienne Rich volume from Geoffrey this way. After he’d been gone for a while and she was searching for a poem quote . . .
So yes, this is the thing I most want to know. Who is the tea basket?
We’re reading The Novelist: a novella, by L.L. Barkat, together over the next couple of weeks. We’d love to hear what you’re thinking about the story, about the characters, even about the process of writing fiction. Perhaps you’d share your thoughts from some of the second set of questions from the reader-crafted discussion guide
- Name the various characters in the novelist. Who do you like and why? Dislike and why?
- What do each of the characters in the book represent to a potential novelist?
- Explore Laura’s description of her relationship with Geoffrey. What do we learn about Laura from it?
- How is Laura’s relationship with Geoffrey like (or not like) her relationship to writing?
- How is Laura like, or not like, the old woman in the cottage?
- Laura worries that if she writes a novel it will be all about her father. Is the story that emerges actually about Laura’s father? How do you know?
- Who should read this book and why?
For next week, take a look at the third and final set of questions.
Don’t have the book yet? Read the first three chapters for free. (But be careful. You’ll be hooked.)
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