I am sometimes a really bad reader of contemporary fiction. It often takes me a while to get into it because I think about the real, living author and approach the novel as a set of techniques (or gimmicks) instead of a narrative to inhabit (which, of course, is also made from a set of techniques).
This was definitely the case in my reading of Eimear McBride’s The Lesser Bohemians, but it pulled me in just in time so I could truly immerse myself. Because I’ve been thinking a lot about Lukács this semester (why always Lukács?), I found the way in which naming worked in the novel really interesting. At times, it felt like a gimmick, but I think, at the end, it really worked to show how individual character emerges in the novel, on the one hand, and how social life works, on the other. For the majority of the novel, characters have no names. There is the narrator, “I;” her lover, “Him;” her friend, “her;” her flatmate, “Flatmate.” But by the end of the novel, some characters have names: Eily, Stephen, Grace, Marianne, David, Raf. For me, this implies that they are no longer simply types, they are individuals. But, the characters who remain unnamed, “her” and “Flatmate” among others, remain minor and remain types. They play social roles, but never emerge as individuals within the novel (or to the narrator). The fact that they remain types while other seemingly minor characters get names suggests that individualization is a result of intimacy and that intimacy is a way of unsettling typification.