I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective, or what writers call point of view (POV). In my upcoming novel What
My fascination with POV was recently rewarded by Peter Selgin’s memoir The Inventors and his use of second-person. In an effective and refreshing twist on adult retrospective, Selgin writes, not about, but to his younger self, pointing out what the boy wouldn’t have grasped in the moment, what his older self has learned, and where his boyish self has simply disappointed him. The perspective might feel harsh, if we didn’t each engage in similar acts of self-scorn. These second-person passages, which the book is primarily comprised of, are voyeuristic and haunting in quality. They give the work a feel that is somehow less memoir-ish—a genre with the potential for myopic self-importance. Instead, we experience the intimacy of another man’s private struggle with identity, desire, confusion, and blame as if he is not the one telling us.
You can read my review of The Inventors at Colorado Review.