Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A World Without Novels

Subtleties, anachronism, metaphor, language, balance

From the very title throughout the entire book, Nova is a novel centered on metaphor. Katin and his desire to write a novel in a world where the form has become obsolete seemed to be the character that explicitly states the elements of metaphor through his recordings. Described as a brilliant and eccentric by the narrator and a self-proclaimed anachronism, the Ivy leaguer and possible author connected back to our own time better than some of the other characters.

The large metaphor of the nova, more specifically balance in general, sprang up throughout the novel. Katin, possibly because of his education and his potential status as a writer, seemed to make the most explicit statements about balance through recording notes and speaking with other characters. In one of Katin’s first recordings, he explains the balance of the novel itself in just a few paragraphs. He describes a nerve cluster in the human brain that “balances the perception of the world outside with the knowledge of the world within” (36). This seems to be the essence of understanding, reading, learning, interpreting, and acting, among other things, the base of life among interacting species. Balance must be kept for an individual or a world to continue to function and exist, but Nova is a novel about when that balance is lost.

As Katin states, “occasionally something goes wrong with the tiny bodies balancing the perceptual pressures on the human brain” (36). Sometimes governments “cannot handle the worlds they govern” which would theoretically lead to civil or world war. And when “something goes wrong with the balancing mechanism inside a sun, the dispersal of incredible stellar power dephases into the titanic forces that make a sun go nova-“ (37). This metaphor and its spread from the individual up to the universe and the sun, could be subtlety found throughout the novel, but why does Delaney use Katin to so explicitly tell the reader and the other characters these subtleties?

Katin’s desire but failure to write a novel place him in a unique position compared to other characters. The novel is described as an “archaic art form…capable of vanished subtleties, both spiritual and artistic” (37). In a world without the novel, learning and interpreting are on a different level. Not necessarily better or worse, but different. Readers no longer interact with characters and fictional situations; all interactions are in reality. Similarly, the English language of reading and writing would no longer exist as a dominant. As Mouse acknowledges, he is not a proficient in reading and writing English as “the letters don’t have nothing to do with the sounds you make” (37). To which, Katin replies, “That’s why English was such a fine language for novels” (37). The balance Katin finds with explaining the larger nova metaphors to characters such as Mouse, as well as respecting the novel and its lost art of subtlety creates an interesting choice by the author.


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