Publication Details

McKinnon, C. (2014). Writing across gaps: negotiating places of uncertainty. Minding the Gap: AAWP 19th Annual Conference (p. 93). Wellington, New Zealand: Massey University.


Humans are the only animals that attempt to make sense of their lived experiences through story. In Six Walks In The Fictional Woods, Umberto Eco says: ‘to read fiction means to play a game by which we give sense to the immensity of things that happened, are happening, or will happen in the actual world’ (1998: 87). In recent years there has been a spate of novels that attempt this negotiation through multi-narrations that surf time, genre hop and shift geographical location. In the March 8th Book Review section of the New York Times (2012: 11), critic Douglas Coupland coined the term ‘translit’ to describe such novels. If we accept Coupland’s term, Hari Kunzru’s Gods Without Men (2012), David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004), and Steve Amsterdam’s Things We Didn’t See Coming (2009) might all be called translit, and so too Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (1928). Yet by choosing to travel across narrative boundaries in this way, what might a translit author offer the reader? Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, in ‘The Story of “I”: Illness and Narrative Identity’, says, ‘we lead our lives as stories, and our identity is constructed both by stories we tell ourselves and others about ourselves and by the master narratives that consciously or unconsciously serve as models for ours’ (2002: 11). Through an encounter with my own creative process when writing my novel, Storyland, this paper argues that by situating an uncertain present with the imagined future and (or) the historical past, translit novels may offer a different way of paying attention to the world and hence to the construction of our identity.