The Millions

Observers, Bystanders, and Hangers On: Ten Novels with Unlikely Narrators

Many—maybe even most—of my favorite books are novels narrated by an observer who does not consider themselves the main actor in the story. Think Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby’s sort-of friend, the perfect mournfully sardonic narrator for one of American literature’s most enduring novels. I love stories told by the supposedly innocent bystander; the less charismatic best friend; the hapless fan or scholar whose own life recedes in the shadow of their subject of adoration.

I especially love books like this because they are honest in two ways other narrative forms are often not. First, a non-protagonist narrator acknowledges the fact that storytelling is always, always about perspective.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Millions

The Millions7 min read
For the Relief of Unbearable Bookstores
The unforgivable sin of bookstores is this: so many of the books that they offer are physical reminders of passing time. The post For the Relief of Unbearable Bookstores appeared first on The Millions.
The Millions8 min read
Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Murakami, Oyeyemi, Wideman, and More
Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Haruki Murakami, Helen Oyeyemi, John Edgar Wideman, and more—that are publishing this week. The post Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Murakami, Oyeyemi, Wideman, and More appeared first on Th
The Millions5 min read
Found in Translation: On Jhumpa Lahiri and ‘Whereabouts’
To make art, you’ve got to be in a very precarious place all the time. You really have to realize that it’s a dangerous thing you’re doing, and the stakes are very high. The post Found in Translation: On Jhumpa Lahiri and ‘Whereabouts’ appeared first