A case for a single narrator in Spectacle

   After reading the first eight chapters of Spectacle, I think a case can be made for a single narrator of the entire book (unless some wayward chapter later ruins my argument). Taking into account the two brief essays we read from Steinberg, I’m beginning to think the novel is not only narrated by one woman, but that it is slightly autobiographical. She is from Baltimore, and several students from her art school died in a plane crash. She speaks about this in “On Craft”. She also describes her troubled home life.

   The narrator of almost every single story has several things in common, and where one theme is absent, others are there to indicate similarities.

The first point we’ve been considering in class is whether the narrator is female. Evidence for this is in almost every story: “I was just a certain type of girl”, Underfed, “They say I did not kill my father because they cannot have sex with a woman who killed”, Cowboys, “At some point you become something other than girl”, Signifier, “I was not a girl who did girl things”, Underthings, “One’s man was supposed to be there, helping to pull one’s underwear one” (after an ultrasound), Universe, “the older kid, the only girl”, Cowgirl.

   Many of the stories contain evidence of the narrator’s previous trauma with one specific plane crash. Stories that are situated at a time before the crash, of course, do not reference it. The narrator many of the stories (Underfed, Cowboys, Supernova, Signifier, Underthings, Cowgirl) has issues with her father; in some he was abusive during her childhood, and in others it is hinted that he wasn’t a model father, and is now dead because the narrator “pulled the plug”.

   Other themes, like spiders in corners, indignant brothers, abused mothers, windows, alcohol dependency, emphasis on metaphors and meaning, cliches, and palling around with questionable college friends reappear in many of the stories. While it is possible that each narrator is different, they would have to be very similar people for this to be the case. It makes more sense to assume that, according to plot, the narrators are the same.

   The only discontinuity is the form of each story. Steinberg herself has said she is attempting to experiment with the form of prose, and with punctuation. I think that her narrators are, like Steinberg, the same woman, expressing her history in different forms of prose.

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