Everyone asked various online book reviewers to blurb his or her blog novel even though the novel wasn’t finished. Everyone’s closest friend, the Internet, had suggested it. “All books get blurbs,” the Internet said. “Blurbs signal that the book is readable, which readers like.”
The only potential blurber who responded, however, was no one. Everyone thought he or she had heard of no one, but everyone wasn’t sure. Everyone even thought he or she had referenced no one a few times in his or her novel. Everyone was intrigued to know what no one had to say.
No one’s blurb came in an e-mail. The blurb read like this: “A magnificent work of metafiction. Everyone should read this. After all, everyone wrote it.”
The implication that everyone had never read his or her own written work bothered everyone, and everyone resented the blurb. Everyone had, of course, read his or her own blog a number of times--read it, in fact, more than anything else--but everyone had set the blog stats not to count his or her own hits. Anyone who reviewed blogs should have known.
“That’s why no one called your book metafiction,” the Internet pointed out. “No one was not making a claim that you never read the book. Rather, no one was pointing to the parallel between your choice of reading and writing. They are one and the same. Metafiction makes explicit the artifice of writing by inviting the reader to directly follow the creation of the story as it is brought into being.”
Everyone was dismayed. Everyone hated metafiction. Everyone had wanted to write a great story that would put readers at the edge of their seats. Instead, everyone had written a story that bore within it an ironic distance that would keep readers from believing it to be true.
Everyone had committed a travesty.
“Is it more true,” the Internet asked, waxing philosophical, “to ignore the creation of the story at hand, to pretend that there is no author bringing it into being, that the events are just happening?”
Everyone wasn’t sure what the Internet meant.
The Internet missed everyone’s coworker Harvey. Harvey had jumped out of a window and never returned. Harvey liked to discuss abstract ideas from theory, philosophy, and religion with the Internet. Everyone just wanted to know the meaning of life--concretely, in some personal manner, as if one could wander into a party on a boat and shake hands with it, have a drink with it, and suddenly be illuminated.
The Internet rattled off a list of metafictional works for everyone, rehashing their basic plot points, hoping the examples would clarify what the Internet was trying to say about truth. In Tristam Shandy, the Internet explained, a man attempts to write his autobiography but gets so distracted by the details of his story that he never even completes the story of his birth. Or take Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, where the protagonist meets the author of the book in which he appears. Or Ernest Hemingway’s The Torrents of Spring, wherein chapters are given over to the author’s recounting of events from the past weekend that prevented him from completing the next chapter on time. Or Pale Fire, by that epitomal author of metafictional worlds, Vladimir Nabokov, in which the narrative consists of the annotations to a poem that constitutes the first half of the book. The poem’s meaning is, in part, brought to light by its first reader in the same way that subsequent readers will create further annotations and stories and meanings.
“So you’re saying that’s what I’m writing?” asked everyone.
“I’m saying,” the Internet said, “that that is all one ever writes or reads. We write the stories as we read them. The very choice to ignore this part of the storytelling process is itself an artifice with metafictional underpinnings--erasing the author so that the author must be found, or creating an author so that the real author is obfuscated, which is you, everyone, the reader!”
Everyone wants you to read the book on which he or she is working, a novel everyone is writing in order to find the meaning of life, with which everyone’s spouse ran off. But everyone has to finish the novel before everyone can know where the novel begins. In the meantime, there are all these distractions, such as the twelfth-floor window at the office building where everyone works out of which people or maybe just one person keeps jumping or falling--everyone isn’t sure--or everyone’s sexy coworker Sam, whom everyone is struggling valiantly against to keep from becoming a paramour. It’s kind of pitiful, actually, the way everyone keeps begging you to read, sending you e-mails, dropping it into conversation (“I have a book, you know?”), posting links to it on social-networking sites. Everyone figures that if he or she begs enough, you will break down and try it. Everyone is like a dog that way, watching you eat your dinner. The way you handle the dog is to push it away from the table, lock it outside the room. Sometimes, of course, you hand the dog a bite, an inch-sized bit of beef, and that is all everyone is asking for--a bite, that you read just the first line of his or her book. The problem is that you know everyone too well. If you read one line, everyone will beg you to read another. Just one more.
To start from the beginning of the novel, go here.