Eric Sanderson: Unreliable Narrator?

I found myself questioning the reliability of our narrator by the end of the Raw Shark Texts. It’s never said outright, but Eric’s catharsis while floating in the water with Scout heavily implies that Scout is, in fact, Clio in some form. I immediately thought ‘how?’ Also, how did Eric send a post card from his new home in the biro world? What’s up with his corpse being found?

It’s possible that the narrative is made up- the machinations of a broken mind. Maybe Dr. Randle was more correct in her assessments than the narrator wanted us to know- maybe more than he knew. I don’t really know how much sense that angle would make under close scrutiny, but there were many unanswered questions by the end of the novel. It could just be that he could not keep my suspension of disbelief going throughout the whole novel.

I guess we’re supposed to assume that the first Eric Sanderson actually succeeded in somehow extracting his memory of Clio from the ludovician and somehow engineered a means for it to have a physical form that was more stable than Mr. Nobody. Again, how?

But yeah, so I find myself questioning the authenticity of Eric’s story. The plot itself is pretty standard thriller fare, so what was most interesting to me was the form of the novel, specifically his use of other texts to create parallels to his own. The questions I found myself asking were informed by the cultural artifacts Steven Hall touched upon. Much like Murakami’s Toru Okada, Eric Sanderson found himself wandering through a world of the mind. Unlike Eric, however, Toru’s story ends with his very complicated journey being more of a mess of unresolved and seemingly unreal ‘stuff’ than a linear adventure. There’s also the ‘Fight Club’ namedrop which made me think of how a turn of events could make a prior narrative suspect.

The references to Casablanca reminded me of an episode of The Simpsons in which an alternate ending to that movie was found. In the humorous ‘original’ ending, Ilsa jumps from her plane after take-off, helps kill Hitler to end World War 2, and reunites with Rick to live happily ever after. This, of course, nullifies the emotional impact of the film, which ends with the star-crossed pair parting, as there is no feasible way for them to be together. But, it could be the ending we’re given in ‘Raw Shark Texts.’ Eric goes on a seemingly impossible journey to end up with an unrealistically ideal resolution to his emotional turmoil.

Probably not what Hall had in mind with the Casablanca motif, but I found it interesting that many of the texts he references (well, not ‘Jaws’) have elements in which you are questioning the reliability of the author. He creates a tapestry using other texts that makes me want to apply the techniques of analysis from those texts to this one. In a sense, his novel is much like his Biro world (or the internet after which it is seemingly modeled)- a consolidation of disparate information into a uniform entity.

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~ by wro1 on January 27, 2013.

6 Responses to “Eric Sanderson: Unreliable Narrator?”

  1. I enjoy this entry because of the emphasis on the reliability. It really signifies the strange pull between the believable and the unbelievable aspects of everything related to Eric.
    -Sarah

  2. I like this post, because it makes us think deeper about the characters and actions that they take.

  3. I enjoy how this post relates to other text within the story as well as outside of the story (in regards to the Simpsons).

  4. This captures the question of reality which is a huge issue with this book; this is phenomenal.

  5. ending any novel is a difficult thing to do because the fan base will hate you either way. They always want all their questions answered and they wish that there would be no strings left. On a side note I have noticed that this was not the best way to present an argument quite simply because it made very little sense. In other words I figure its hard to really hate this book. Its filled with classic movie references and plenty of things that if you catch them you’ll smile and look around making sure nobody is looking to catch you in this embarrassing moment. Its a nerd kind of thing that we all experience at one time, the moment where you feel like… hey I can’t believe I just did that because it was awfully loser-ish.

  6. According to the pictures in which we did in class, I found this to be most insightful and accurate. Blah, blah… It’s quite interesting to read as a novel because it leaves one continually questioning an understanding of the character as well as the novel itself, and no matter what, one must keep an open mind. The questioning of reliability is an important matter in a novel because as a reader, one should be able to trust the person of whom is telling that story. Etc… A novels importance is also a readers understanding, however, much of this book leaves either very much

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