In reading the sophomore novel by ara 13, my reaction was (while reading it) that I’d not ever read anything quite like it before. Fiction is actually a work of metafiction, and while I have read other metafictional books in the past, Fiction is unusual in its narrative approach and style - and I mean that as a good thing. Although it is difficult to pinpoint any particular writer 13’s novel reminds me of, I would have to say the closest thing might be Nathanael West, albeit 13 tends to veer off into more philosophical elements than West does, though both writers share a certain element of humor.
Readers may wonder why he chose to title his book Fiction. I wondered the same. As many might already know, metafiction is the art of bringing to the reader’s attention that one is in fact dealing with artifice. In his Encore, he addresses it:
"Scoff not at fictions merely on account of their fabrications. Nonfiction too is manufactured, therefore subject to the same human imperfections upon production, relieving no reader of the onus of deciding that which is sound judgment. So, digest not only fact; read fiction."
One of the many questions the book asks is the idea of real versus artifice, and if something is man made, does that make it any less real? Is reality merely that which is found in nature, or can it be invented? All these questions hold a greater heft against the idea of religion and the existence of God, and if God is in fact all made up, does that make it any less real? The questions spawning from such debates are endless.
The story involves a priest named Father Daniel who encounters a group of savages in the forest. His intention is to help convert what he believes to be a cannibalistic tribe to Christianity, but his inability to communicate and their inability to understand cause some friction between them (much of which is terribly funny). For example, in one scene where Daniel is trying to write words in the dirt, the natives mistake it for a map, commenting on its “complication.”