Friday Fiction: You Don't Know Me by Alex Snider

There was an episode of The Hills where Lauren Conrad, the ox-eyed heroine of the series, was confronted by wannabe megalomaniac villain Spencer's sister at a club. "You don't know me!" Lauren declared emphatically to sneering Stephanie, sibling to he of the flesh-coloured beard. It was an incredible moment in the series because it showed Conrad doing something other than rolling her eyes. Indeed, much like a fish, long since thought of as dead, that begins flopping around the bottom of the boat (before it gets a few whacks with a paddle), Lauren Conrad showed life that episode. It was beautiful. And who doesn't want to say that to someone in the heat of a confrontation? You don't know me! Real talk. End scene. Drop the mic.

You know who else could say that? All the anonymous narrators/protagonists in this week's Friday Fiction round-up. You know, because they're anonymous.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison – The greatest? Most definitely one of the greatest. A scathing look at the relationship between African Americans and White people, whether academics, liberals, police, social activists or the wealthy. Leaving no stone unturned, Ellison, in experimental style reminiscent of TS Eliot and Dostoevsky but that flows like virtuosic jazz, neatly shows how much of an impact racism has on all Black people, their self-determination, self-esteem and identity, and their relationships with one another. The protagonist and narrator is unnamed and he undergoes an immense shift in world views, beginning the novel as a young man believing (and having) promise but descending into paranoia wrought by the violent racism surrounding him. He has to make himself invisible to survive. Absolutely brilliant and the most must-read must-read. Ellison!

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – In women's novels featuring anonymous protagonists the statement is one of a removed agency or erasure of self or lack of power; male authors are open to a wider variety of reasons for such anonymity. Ugh, patriarchy! Rebecca, the classic novel cum film is about a young woman who marries a man, moves to his estate and then is forced to live in the shadow of his super awesome dead wife, Rebecca. Rebecca, Rebecca, Rebecca! Du Maurier was a fracking master of the sinister and spooky behaviour (see also: Birds. BIRDS!) and Rebecca is the perfect storm of her talents. Rather Mrs Danvers, the eviiiiiiiiil housekeeper is the perfect storm of Du Maurier's talents. Manderley!

Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya – An young, exiled (unnamed) writer in an unnamed Central American country is called upon to write out the testimonies of Indigenous people who have suffered mass murder and torture at the hands of the military. The writer is like many a young writer: promiscuous, fond of alcohol, a bit of a hot-shot all things told. But as he gets further into the horrific (and true) testimonies, he descends into paranoia and he finds that it is harder and harder for him to differentiate his own voice from those of the Indigenous people. Writers!

Hunger by Knut Hamsun – A surprisingly hilarious novel, the unnamed protagonist wanders the streets of Norway's unnamed capital (Oslo!) waffling between hunger and art. Could be a manifesto for the hipster: to sell out or not to sell out? Or it could be a manifesto for the conservative boomer, so intent on lecturing the millenials to stop whining about "no jobs" and "student loans" and "threat of homelessness" and just never take any sort of "charity". Or it could just be a rollicking Catch-22 tale written by a nazi sympathizer about a weirdo writer who is so hungry he can't write but in order to eat he must write. At any rate, he eats his pencil. Writers!

Yellow Wall Paper by Gilman Perkins – She's not crazy, your actions are leading her to believe she's crazy. And yellow wall paper is gross. A feminist classic that offers a sad look into the world of the infantalization of women by their husbands and doctors, a practice that still hasn't gone out of style. Gaslighting! 

The Road by Cormac McCarthy – A father-son, coming of age romp through the apocalypse! I have now read so much (too much? NEVER) McCarthy that if I am not emotionally eviscerated by a novel's end (i.e. most characters are dead, in particular, the ones that the protagonist loved the most and they're dead in the most unnecessary and cruel way), well, the writer wasn't really trying, now were they? MCCARTHY! The Road is my least favourite, though, to be honest. Read this because it's a McCarthy and because it won the Pulitzer and because Oprah looooooooooooo-veeeeeeeeeeed it and because it fits with the Lauren "You don't know me" Conrad theme, but then go read Suttree. And The Border Trilogy. And Blood Meridian. McCarthy!

(Heh, there is an essay's worth of commentary on the fact that I opened this Friday Fiction with over-exposed reality stars, famous for being attractive, rich and White but followed up with books about struggles of race, gender and power. I believe that is what Alanis Morissette would call ironic.)

Have a wonderful weekend, friends! I hope the sun is shining wherever you are and that you will have an opportunity to enjoy it!


Alex Snider is a Toronto-based writer. Her website is What Fresh Hell is This and her Twitter handle is @what_freshhell.


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