William Goldman's Narrative Gimmick

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Richard Stokes
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William Goldman's Narrative Gimmick

Postby Richard Stokes » December 23rd, 2018, 7:37 pm

In his tribute to the late novelist and screenwriter William Goldman, Richard Kaufman raises an important point about how Goldman made use of a literary trick to misdirect his readers.

Even though I read Marathon Man way back in 1975 I still remember the shock of this identity revelation when we learn that **** and *** are one and the same.

I don't see how a film director can overcome this identity problem. This trick cannot logically be captured on film without destroying the surprise element.

An earlier exponent of this narrative sleight of mind was Ira Levin in his debut novel A Kiss Before Dying (1953).

[Edited to remove spoiler for those who have not read Marathon Man.]

Bill Mullins
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Re: William Goldman's Narrative Gimmick

Postby Bill Mullins » December 23rd, 2018, 9:42 pm

They tried to do it in the Bruce Willis movie "The Color of Night", but it was so bad on so many levels that whether or not this narrative trick "worked" is moot.

Pete McCabe
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Re: William Goldman's Narrative Gimmick

Postby Pete McCabe » December 24th, 2018, 2:35 am

The Decagon House Murders has one of the best examples of this type of twist in any mystery I've read.

Daniel Z
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Re: William Goldman's Narrative Gimmick

Postby Daniel Z » December 24th, 2018, 8:30 am

would you count the approach used in the film version of Fight Club?

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Richard Kaufman
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Re: William Goldman's Narrative Gimmick

Postby Richard Kaufman » December 24th, 2018, 11:09 am

No, "Fight Club" is a different thing entirely. That's character based, not a literary gimmick (but I'm thinking of the movie--not sure what's in the book).
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Daniel Z
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Re: William Goldman's Narrative Gimmick

Postby Daniel Z » December 24th, 2018, 3:44 pm

In the book the unnamed narrator meets, and falls under the influence of Tyler Durden. Durden is his inspiration, mentor and co-conspirator. Soon after rejecting the violence of Durden's approach he is forced into realizing that they are the same person (or if you prefer Durden is his hallucination). In the book that comes as a shock even though there have been clues that could have led there reader to that conclusion). In the film the director deals with the problem of visualizing this without prematurely revealing the identity of the two characters by having them played by different actors. which is of course how the protagonist experiences it in the novel.

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AJM
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Re: William Goldman's Narrative Gimmick

Postby AJM » December 24th, 2018, 4:06 pm

Doesn't Dan Brown use this literary device in pretty much every one of his novels?

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Jonathan Townsend
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Re: William Goldman's Narrative Gimmick

Postby Jonathan Townsend » December 24th, 2018, 4:09 pm

How about Gnomon: A Novel? Or going back a bit - Alain Robbe-Grillet's The Erasers?

just eliminating the impossible... :)
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Daniel Z
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Re: William Goldman's Narrative Gimmick

Postby Daniel Z » December 24th, 2018, 5:13 pm

And what about Poe's William Wilson? Would that fit the bill?

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Brad Jeffers
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Re: William Goldman's Narrative Gimmick

Postby Brad Jeffers » December 24th, 2018, 10:02 pm

Richard Stokes wrote:I still remember the shock of this identity revelation when we learn that **** and *** are one and the same.
I don't see how a film director can overcome this identity problem. This trick cannot logically be captured on film without destroying the surprise element.
How about the character V******t / K*****e from The Usual Suspects ?

[EDIT: Really? More spoilers?]

Bill Mullins
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Re: William Goldman's Narrative Gimmick

Postby Bill Mullins » December 24th, 2018, 10:49 pm

Spoiler warnings for a movie that's still at the theaters is one thing, but Magic came out 40 years ago and The Usual Suspects is 23 years old. If you don't know what's going on in them by now, you aren't paying attention or don't really care.

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Re: William Goldman's Narrative Gimmick

Postby Jonathan Townsend » December 24th, 2018, 11:36 pm

Spoiler alert: the Ace can also go after the King. Plot twist! :roll:
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: William Goldman's Marthon Man - Kaufman article?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » December 24th, 2018, 11:53 pm

The Goldman book was reviewed when published and the movie came out a year later. Our dialogue recalls Doctor Who fussing over spoilers with River Song . Citation or URL for the article?

Spoiler alert: the Ace can also go after the King. Plot twist! :roll:
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time


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