The Art of Perspective: Who Tells the Story

  • 2016
  • Graywolf Press
  • ISBN: 978-1555977269

A writer may have a story to tell, a sense of plot, and strong characters, but for all of these to come together some key questions must be answered

What form should the narrator take? An omniscient, invisible force, or one—or more—of the characters? But in what voice, and from what vantage point? How to decide?

Avoiding prescriptive instructions or arbitrary rules, Christopher Castellani examines the various ways writers have solved the crucial point-of-view problem. By unpacking the narrative strategies at play in the work of writers as different as E. M. Forster, Grace Paley, and Tayeb Salih, among many others, he illustrates how the author's careful manipulation of distance between narrator and character drives the story.

Reviews and Praise

"A close look at writers’ crucial choices. The latest contributor to The Art of series, novelist and Guggenheim Fellow Castellani offers an attentive reading of works by E.M. Forster, Lorrie Moore, Zoë Heller, Grace Paley, and Tayeb Salih, among others, to illuminate 'the how and why' of narration. A modest, gracefully written meditation on creativity and craft." Kirkus Reviews

"Remarkably perceptive and gracefully written… Anyone with an interest in how good stories are constructed will find this book both enjoyable and useful." Shelf Awareness (starred)

"Castellani's lucid exploration into the mechanics of narrative means The Art of Perspective is a pleasure to read for anyone curious why the stories we love move us the way they do; why so often it is not the sequence of events or some happening of the plot that compels us to turn the page, but a voice—be it forthright or deceptive—at the heart of the story...While the series may be of most interest to writers, Castellani discusses fiction in such an accessible and engaging manner that the book should prove compelling to anyone who is curious about why some of their favorite novels work the way they do." Zyzzyva

"Great for diving deeply into a single aspect of writing that can be applied to any number of goals, including fiction and non-fiction writing. . . . A handy reference guide." Brooklyn Rail


Works referenced in The Art of Perspective:

  • Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. "The Danger of a Single Story."
  • Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre.
  • Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Notes from Underground.
  • Eliot, T. S. The Waste Land.
  • Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying.
  • Faulkner, William. Light in August.
  • Forster, E. M. Howard's End.
  • Forster, E. M. A Passage to India.
  • Gardner, John. The Art of Fiction.
  • Gornick, Vivian. The Situation and the Story.
  • Heller, Zoë. What Was She Thinking?.
  • Johnson, Denis. "Emergency."
  • Kushner, Tony. Angels in America.
  • Lardner, Ring. "Haircut."
  • McEwan, Ian. Atonement.
  • Moore, Lorrie. Birds of America.
  • Moore, Lorrie. Like Life.
  • Moore, Lorrie. Self-Help.
  • Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita.
  • O'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried.
  • Paley, Grace. The Collected Stories.
  • Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea.
  • Salih, Tayeb. Season of Migration to the North.
  • Stadler, Matthew. Allan Stein.
  • Walker, Alice. The Color Purple.
  • Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass.
  • Wilder, Thornton. Our Town.
  • Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway.
  • Woolf, Virginia. Orlando.
  • Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse.