ZZ Packer on Voice in Fiction

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As part of her two week long visit to the UNL campus, acclaimed writer ZZ Packer gave a craft talk yesterday on “Voice in Fiction.” Mobilizing several examples across the literary canon from Huckleberry Finn to White Teeth, Packer discussed what makes a work of fiction “highly voiced” (all fictions have voice, Packer said—the level of transparency of that voice is what differs across novels). Highly-voiced narrators, Packer said, de-familiarize our world, making us “recalibrate our assumptions” garnered from previous narratives. These narratives are inter-textual commentaries of sorts, questioning the prior written word, turning away from the standard truth, and perverting “noble” texts. Packer illuminated the way highly voiced narratives give rise to their own particular truth, moving us away from a strictly craft-based definition of voice and toward a more expansive understanding of the implications of this authorial choice.