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Novels with complex structures

Mark Z Danielewski’s House of Leaves is probably the most famous oddly structured book. For the most part there’s two separate narratives; the narrator’s own story is told in footnotes, the main body of the text being the discovered critical analysis by Zampano of a non-existent documentary film about an ever-changing house. Zampano’s also blind, btw.

It’s a little bit gimmicky, but at times the Zampano essay is stunning, with some of the most memorable sinister moments in modern literature.

Beside House of Leaves, I was surprised by the twist of the plot and development in these books:

Abraham Verghese: Cutting for Stone.

Orhan Pamuk: Museeum of Innocence. (This is a love novel, and you may not like this genre.)

Benito Perez Galdos: Fortunata and Jacinta.

Theodor Kallifatides: In her Gaze. (First written in Swedish, but it is translated into some other languages. I do not know if English belongs to them.)

Selma Lagerlöf: The Story of Gösta Berling. Repeatedly some one will predict an event that is easily seen to be impossible, unless supranatural phenomena are included. And then the event does occur, but because of perfectly natural causes.

Arnold Zweig: The Fight Over Sergeant Gruschka. (In WWI Gruschka is a deserter from the Russian army and had been living in a German P.O.W. camp. He had escaped. What he is most eager to avoid is to be send back to this camp. A woman eventually advises him how to avoid that – but he will actually suffer worse outcomes.)

  • Really interesting topic! I would add The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Different narrative voices intertwine and the font plays a really important role too. The Dick and Jane story at the beginning of the novel is written 3 times - one normally, one without punctuation and one without any spaces between letters. Worth reflecting on what that is supposed to mean. And the book is structured by seasons, comparing the Dick and Jane vision of spring, all nice and pretty, and the afro-american's reality of spring in the 1960s - rape and violence. And Gabriel Garcia Marquez' A hundred Years of Solitude. – Rachel Elfassy Bitoun 8 years ago
  • What about Faulkner? I'm thinking The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying. – Kristian Wilson 8 years ago
  • I'm thinking Scandinavian crime/mystery-thrillers and their impact on modern fiction (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). – Thomas Munday 8 years ago
  • The structure and themes of Cloud Atlas could be another book to consider for this topic. I find the puzzling feature of the structure of linked stories or novel-in-stories to be intriguing and feel it could be inserted into this topic. Some other linked story novels include: Circus in Winter by Cathy Day. Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, and Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston. – BethanyS 8 years ago
  • Interesting. But would you mind explaining what are the questions this topic is going to answer/any potential central argument? For example, what the authors are trying to do with the unusual structures? What messages do they convey? I would also suggest to look a bit into the history of the novel. – Ka Man Chung 2 years ago

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