The BookBrowse Review

Published May 15, 2019

ISSN: 1930-0018

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The BookBrowse Review

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  • Wordplay:
    I I T S Form O F
  • Book Giveaway:
    My husband asked me to lie. Not a big lie...
Dear BookBrowsers—

What is the classic structure of a novel? Is there even such a thing? When we think about stories and talk about them, we tend to focus on plot and characters. The man took a trip around the world to find his long-lost brother. The girl and her dog dug up a treasure in the backyard and then together fought off a band of pirates. Plot and characters.

But what about structure? Often it is almost invisible, like a clear glass scaffolding that almost magically holds the story in place. Structure, though, can be just as vital to a novel as its content. A theme or subject can be reinforced by the way it is offered. Structure affects the pace at which we read, where we emphasize and what we emphasize, and it can subtly or overtly mirror content.

This issue is full of unique and innovative structures.

Exhalation by Ted Chiang is a compilation of nine short stories and novellas that are the stuff of science fiction, but not your usual variety. Instead, Chiang weaves together the truly bizarre and other-worldly while infusing each of his characters with universal emotions. This is not a theme-focused book, but more of an interdisciplinary experiment. The structure of the whole collection allows the reader to dive deep for a short time, come up for air, and then dive deep again, much like a bird flying over an ocean searching for food. Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg explores the life of a fictional photographer who struggles to balance her personal, artistic and professional lives; it's written as an art catalogue created for a posthumous showing of her work, but without ever showing a single photograph. Structure here is in the form of an actual object in the story.

Angie Kim's debut, Miracle Creek, tells the suspenseful story of an explosion in a medical treatment facility in short third-person chapters—like small explosions, over and over again—so that form mirrors content. And Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips has 12 chapters, each representing a month in the year after two girls go missing on a peninsula in the far eastern corner of Russia. The reader feels that endless year of longing as opposed to just thinking about it.

Read any one of these books with an eye on their structure. Read any in our excellent line-up here and see if you can bring their often-invisible structures into focus.

Happy reading!

Your editor

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