First & third person stories
February 18, 2010 5:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for book/story recommendations where the story is told from the first and third person perspectives. There are good suggestions for limited third person in this AskMe, but I'd really like to find some options with both perspectives.
posted by bwonder2 to Writing & Language (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It's uncommon enough that I can only think of one book I've read that's done this, or at least I'm pretty sure it had some first person... I know for certain it did third person, then a few pages of second person -- I think some first person was mixed in as well. It's called The Music of Razors by Cameron Rogers. It's an odd kind of book, sort of fantasy, sort of not. I've never read anything like it in my life, and I've read a lot since I was a kid. On the whole I found it very moving.
posted by Nattie at 5:57 AM on February 18, 2010

Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian begins with the narrator switching between first and second person, and later in the book a couple of third person aspects are added as well.
posted by bassooner at 6:02 AM on February 18, 2010

Glister by John Burnside starts in the third person for a couple of chapters and then has a long novella-length section in the first person before (I think) swapping back.
posted by ninebelow at 6:37 AM on February 18, 2010

If I'm understanding the question correctly, Paul Auster's "Invisible" is what you're looking for. Also, it's excellent.
posted by jbickers at 6:51 AM on February 18, 2010

Haven't read it, but Push is supposed to slip between first and third. Also, Ulysses?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:12 AM on February 18, 2010

Oh! And House of Leaves!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:13 AM on February 18, 2010

IIRC, parts of American Psycho and John Scalzi's The Last Colony switch perspective. The latter is part of a series, although you could get by with just Old Man's War if necessary.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:35 AM on February 18, 2010

Pnin by Nabokov. It slips in and out of first person, and the narrator ends up an actual character.

Dead Souls by Gogol. It also slips in and out of first person, but the narrator never enters the story.
posted by milarepa at 7:35 AM on February 18, 2010

Wikipedia cites The Poisonwood Bible as doing this. I've read it, but I don't remember the first person voice.

I do remember that the first or second page addresses the reader, saying, 'you will have to choose,' or something like that So there is the rare second person perspective, too.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:38 AM on February 18, 2010

SLC Mom: If I remember correctly, The Poisonwood Bible has 1st person sections from most of the major characters in addition to a handful of third person sections/chapters.
posted by JMOZ at 7:39 AM on February 18, 2010

Rabert B. Parker's Thin Air, one of his Spenser mysteries, does this. So does one of Lawrence Block's Scudder mysteries, All the Flowers Are Dying.
posted by troywestfield at 7:43 AM on February 18, 2010

Does the popular (and quite ancient) literary device of the frame narrative fit with what you are looking for? In such narratives, the main story or stories are reported in third person, by a storyteller character whose own world is narrated in first person.

A very fascinating manifestation of this device is Nabakov's Pale Fire, in which the conceit is that the framing narrator, Charles Kinbote, is writing a literary criticism (cast in the first person) of a first-person poem called "Pale Fire," by (Nabavok's invented poet) John Shade. But to complicate the narrative structure further, of the storylines in the framing "literary criticism" involves a character named Charles Xavier Vseslav, whose actions Kinbote narrates in third person, but which the reader is lead to believe may in fact be Kinbote himself (cast in a fantasy world).

Indeed, the possibility can be entertained that the actual "first person" of the whole book is Shade, who invents Kinbote and Kinbote's first-person critique, including then composing the third-person descriptions of Shade himself, as well as the third-person stories about Kinbote's fantasy alter, Charles Xavier.
posted by drlith at 7:55 AM on February 18, 2010

After You'd Gone, by Maggie O'Farrell.
posted by 8dot3 at 8:17 AM on February 18, 2010

Margaret Atwood's first book, The Edible Woman, does this too, for reasons that become pretty clear as you read.
posted by clavicle at 8:17 AM on February 18, 2010

The last story in Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth does this. This story is part of a three-story group--the first two are first-person narratives, each by a different character, and the third is mostly third-person about both of them, with the last section in first-person by the first character. I'm still not quite sure why Lahiri did this--it strikes me as a weird stylistic shift, although I enjoyed the stories as a whole quite a bit.
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:21 AM on February 18, 2010

I think The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier alternates between first and third person every chapter, but I can't find my copy to check.
posted by penguinliz at 8:32 AM on February 18, 2010

Christine by Stephen King and The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner both do this.
posted by johnofjack at 8:34 AM on February 18, 2010

I think penguinliz is right about The Brief History of the Dead. But I'm afraid I don't have my copy to check, either.

Also, from memory:

You Bright and Risen Angels, by William Vollman (this slides between first and third person and also between narrators, often in the middle of a sentence!)
The Public Burning, by Robert Coover
Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer
Well, by Matthew Mcintosh
The People of Paper, by Salvador Plascencia
posted by Life at Boulton Wynfevers at 9:05 AM on February 18, 2010

Margaret Atwood's recent The Year of the Flood shifts between three different people and their respective viewpoints: first-person, third-person, and a leader addressing an audience (pulpit style). I really recommend it.
posted by jamnbread at 9:14 AM on February 18, 2010

The Bartimaeus Trilogy alternates chapters between third person and first person (in the form a narrative by Bartimaeus, the djinni, who is a not-entirely reliable narrator). Enjoyable fantasy books.
posted by fings at 9:41 AM on February 18, 2010

VALIS by Philip K. Dick does this, in a way. It may be closer to framing than what you're looking for, though.

Also, while we're on the topic of framing, Heart of Darkness is an excellent example of that narrative technique.
posted by seliopou at 9:50 AM on February 18, 2010

James Patterson does this in many of his books. Chapters from the POV of the main hero/heroine are in first person, chapters from the POV of other characters in the story are in third person.
posted by SisterHavana at 5:23 PM on February 18, 2010

Response by poster: Fantastic! Thank you everyone -- I'm going to investigate the framing technique a little more and find many of these suggestions.
posted by bwonder2 at 11:52 PM on February 18, 2010

Am I remembering right when I think that the Schroedinger's Cat trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson does this?
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 10:24 AM on February 19, 2010

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