Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Set at Niagara Falls, the honeymoon capital of North America, this stereophonic novel must be heard as it is read and is susceptible to a variety of hearings or readings. The directions for hearing the novel include adjusting seven volume settings, controlling left and right speakers, and listening to certain voices on both speakers. There are two major tracks, a short one which instructs listeners to skip parenthetical material in thirty-four segments (for example, the first parenthesis of May) and a long one in which nothing is skipped; there are also eight intermediate tracks which allow for a great variation in each reading and listening experience. These ten tracks are labeled A through J. In the second chapter, which is set in May, tracks ABC skip the parenthetic material, tracks DEF read “Memories and Tulips” (the first parenthesis) and omit Abel’s and Betty’s lines, and tracks GHIJ read everything. This pattern changes in each of the chapters.

While the changes in each chapter make variable readings possible, there are several constants. Each chapter begins at a specific time of the day or night and each is heralded by a specific stroke on the Westminster’s carillon. A constant narration of portions of Chateaubriand’s descriptions of Niagara from his Essai sur les revolutions (1797; An Historical, Political, Moral Essay on Revolutions, 1815) and from his novel Atala surfaces in each chapter and also opens and...

(The entire section is 532 words.)