Meta-fiction was the subject of a recent tutorial at our writers’ group.

As our tutor, Helen, explained, meta-fiction “poses questions about the relationship between fiction and reality” combining elements such as irony, self-reflection, intertextuality and parody in order to “draw attention to a work’s status as an artefact.”

I had not realised, until this had been explained to me, that I enjoy the use of meta-fictive elements in my writing. I just thought I had a strange sense of humour.

In our writing exercises Helen suggested we experiment with characters who become aware that they are in a story, attend a poetry reading or participate in an argument making reference to a previous story they were in.

Over the next few days the idea of a conversation between Lewis Carroll’s Walrus and Carpenter began to take shape. They find themselves attending a recitation of “their” poem by Salman Rushdie. This prompts a discussion on the nature of their existence. The result is "I am The Walrus" which is a newly posted short story.

Carroll, whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was a lecturer in mathematics at Oxford and an Anglican Deacon. He published works on mathematical logic and I imagine that he was more than passingly familiar with the work of the 17th century mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes.

Descartes contemplation of the nature of reality and the difficulty of distinguishing between being asleep and being awake must, surely, have influenced Carroll’s construction of Alice’s dreamlike Wonderland.

The work of Salman Rushdie is well known, amongst other things, for its meta-fictive elements. Rushdie is a self-confessed admirer of Lewis Carroll and you can hear his recitation of “The Walrus and The Carpenter” here


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