By Robie Macauley
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Extra resources for Technique in Fiction/Second Edition: Revised and Updated for a New Generation
8 About his reader, Balzac assumed this: he had never been in a run-down Parisian boarding-house (or, probably, any boarding house), and he had little imagination about one. Davies, on the other hand, assumes that his reader will detect small clues and thus be able to fill in what the writer has left unsaid. With scarcely any effort, the reader deduces: 1. That the person with whom Mr. Staunton is talking is a psychiatrist (Mr. Staunton has an emotional problem and Zurich is a center for Jungian psychiatry).
The writer's problem of answering where and when may 44 TECHNIQUE IN FICTION have various degrees of difficulty. Scenes and times that are familiar to most readers can be identified easily: The village of Duc Pho in the distance straddled Highway 1 like a fuzzy patch sewn into the green quilt of the landscape. To the east of Duc Pho was a low mountain that separated it from the dull gleam of the China Sea's expanse. The last time he had been here, the mountain was surrounded by rice paddies; now, as the C-130 came in for a landing, he could see the air base at the western foot of the mountain and the perimeter of a camp as big as a city that stretched out eastward toward the sea.
34 TECHNIQUE IN FICTION Compare Balzac's conception of his nineteenth-century reader with a conception of the modern reader held by Robertson Davies. This is the beginning of Davies's estimable novel The Manticore: "When did you decide you should come to Zurich, Mr. " "I think so. Of course I put myself through the usual examination afterward to be quite sure. " "The usual examination? " "Certainly. I mean the sort of examination one always makes to determine the nature of anyone's conduct, his degree of responsibility and all that.