Trying to remember where I read this...
September 20, 2011 12:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to remember where I would have read this. I remember a discussion of the omnipotence/omniscience of a writer in relation to his story world and its characters -- I think the book must have been about writing fiction. There was a particular example having to do with Time, and how a writer who is interrupted by a knock at the door leaves his character, who was about to sit down (or set the table or something), mid-sentence and in a state of limbo. Come to think of it, maybe this was about philosophy or theology... I may have gotten some/all of the details wrong. Any of that sound familiar?
posted by Cortes to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like something that would have been in At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien, but I can't pinpoint exactly where.
posted by xil at 12:16 AM on September 20, 2011

Vonnegut's Timequake?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:53 AM on September 20, 2011

Best answer: I can't remember where, but I think C. S. Lewis used an image like that to try to explain how God (functioning outside of time) could interact with time-bound humans. God, as Author, can enter and edit our stories at whatever point he pleases.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:57 AM on September 20, 2011

hmmm...sounds a bit like simulation theory...
posted by sexyrobot at 1:34 AM on September 20, 2011

There's a lovely example of this in Sterne's Tristram Shandy, where the narrator describes a conversation between his father and his uncle Toby:

I think, replied my uncle Toby, taking his pipe from his mouth, and striking the head of it two or three times upon the nail of his left thumb, as he began his sentence, -- I think, says he: --

At which point the narrator wanders off on a long discussion of whether English comedies are better than French comedies, and whether this has anything to do with the English climate, and whether, with the increase of knowledge, there will come a time when no more books need to be written, and whether, in that case, we will forget everything we know and have to start again from the beginning .. and what with one thing and another, we don't get to hear the end of Uncle Toby's sentence for another ten chapters:

I think, replied my uncle Toby -- taking as I told you, his pipe from his mouth, and striking the ashes out of it as he began his sentence; -- I think, replied he -- it would not be amiss, brother, if we rung the bell.
posted by verstegan at 2:26 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, it sounds very much like the last section of "Sophie's World." I'll see whether I can come up with my copy and find the reference. Spoilers here in section 2, and yes, there is an abrupt disappearance.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:45 AM on September 20, 2011

Sophie's World popped into my head as well. The revelation doesn't come till close to the end of the book, but it does start with a conversational discussion of philosophy.
posted by arzakh at 5:42 AM on September 20, 2011

Not a book, but maybe Stranger Than Fiction?
posted by pwb503 at 7:35 AM on September 20, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone and thank you Pater Aletheias! Your memory jog + Google Books led me to "Mere Christianity." Here's the passage I was thinking of:
Suppose I am writing a novel. I write 'Mary laid down her work; next moment came a knock at the door!' For Mary who has to live in the imaginary time of my story there is no interval between putting down the work and hearing the knock. But I, who am Mary's maker, do not live in that imaginary time at all. Between writing the first half of that sentence and the second, I might sit down for three hours and think steadily about Mary. I could think about Mary as if she were the only character in the book and for as long as I pleased, and the hours I spent in doing so would not appear in Mary's time (the time inside the story) at all.
posted by Cortes at 8:27 AM on September 20, 2011

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