Thursday, November 29, 2007

Asian Story Arcs Revisited

Though you all may be sick of it (haha I don't care!) this Asian story arc thing is nagging at me. So much so, that I decided to enlist the help of a Malaysian literati friend or two I think should know better than me. (And if anywhere is "truly Asia", and thus in the cross currents of story telling traditions, surely Malaysia holds the title ... cue musical interlude).

Well, I mentioned the debate to my friend Chuah Guat Eng the other day when we met for coffee at D'lish. I hadn't seen her for a very long time, as she's been locked away to get her PhD with UKM finished. She was my creative writing guru at one point several years ago, and remained a writing buddy after that (I have happy memories of scribbling away over a bottle of wine at her house). She is also the author of a novel, Echoes of Silence, which cleverly subverts the detective novel genre.

She was so interested in the idea of the different story arcs that she even started a blog so that she could debate the idea!
According to Nury Vittachi, western fiction is based on the "3-act arc" of the Greek drama. The implication is that Asian narratives do not. So Vittachi brings to our attention Indian epics, like the Ramayana or the Mahabharata with "its long list of interlocking tales". He asserts that "the conventions, the structure, the format, are quite different" from western narratives. And he concludes, "To me, Asian narratives are like charm bracelets. Individual items dangle independently and have their own beauty. But a thread links them all together to create a single, larger unified item of beauty." I have two problems with Vittachi's observations.
Go read how she argues the point!


animah said...

I have much to say on this and the banned books subject, but am running low on energy this week. Just trying to settle everything at work before the long holidays.

bibliobibuli said...

neither of these are topics that are going to run away. you can have a whole post if you want, kiddo.