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Finding the Right POV [Blake Bailey]

One of the key choices a writer makes when figuring out the best way to tell a story is point-of-view: why does Lillian Ross efface herself as a narrator in her famous Portrait of Hemingway? Why does the great Joseph Mitchell — so diffident a presence in most of his work — turn himself into the main character (arguably) of his masterpiece, Joe Gould’s Secret? And what about John Hersey’s decision to adopt a kind of limited, third-person omniscience via his six point-of-view characters in Hiroshima? We will discuss how the right point-of-view can turn even drossy material into pure gold, and apply this wisdom to a bit of flash fiction we’ll write in class.