Woman at the beach

It’s natural to focus on the first-person narrator of a novel; but if we learn almost nothing about her, how can we? Yet when she’s the central character and the only one present in all scenes and not just in passing—how can we not see her as the focus?

On the other hand, how can we focus on the many people the narrator listens to when their stories, though compelling, tend to blend into a swirl of angsty personhood? Yet the stories of others make up the vast majority of the novel, with only tiny snippets of the narrator’s life and views thrown in—so how can we not see the raconteurs as the focus?

Long before the word focus acquired its modern meaning of the center of one’s attention, it had definitions (which of course we still use) relating to lenses and other aspects of science and mathematics. And long before the technical applications of the word, it meant “fire,” “fireplace,” “home,” and “family” (definitions which we don’t still use).

Now I’m envisioning the focus of Kudos, the third book in Rachel Cusk’s trilogy, as being the fiery heat of the Mediterranean sun. Now I’m envisioning it as being the burning love for home and family . . . and how elusive this is for many . . . and how worthy of being fought for.

What is your focus: yourself, the people you encounter, the fire above or in your belly, your home, your family? Do you have several foci at once . . . or none at all?

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