James Ley reviews 'Exploded View' by Carrie Tiffany

James Ley reviews 'Exploded View' by Carrie Tiffany

Exploded View

by Carrie Tiffany

Text Publishing, $29.99 pb, 192 pp, 9781925773415

The term ‘exploded view’ refers to an image in a technical manual that shows all the individual parts of a machine, separates them out, but arranges them on the page so that you can see how they fit together. As the title of Carrie Tiffany’s new novel, it can be interpreted as a definitive metaphor and perhaps, in a somewhat looser sense, an analogy for her evocative technique. Various things happen over the course of Exploded View, some of them dramatic, but the novel has little in the way of a conventional plot. Its characters exist in relation to one another, but they barely interact. There is almost no dialogue. It is the kind of novel in which the psychological and emotional unease is displaced or buried beneath the matter-of-fact narration.

What makes it distinctive is that much of this unease is not conveyed via insinuating moments of dramatic tension; it is approached figuratively and analytically, disassembled using the the novel’s central metaphor as a mechanism. Exploded View draws out the multiple implications of the idea that a nuclear family can be understood as kind of machine, consisting of separate but interlocking parts. It develops this simple analogy into the kind of extended conceit one associates with the metaphysical poets. It reflects on how the individual components fit together, how they function as a single entity, and, more to the point, what might cause such a finely attuned piece of machinery to break down.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Published in March 2019, no. 409
James Ley

James Ley

James Ley is an essayist and literary critic who lives in Melbourne. A former Editor of Sydney Review of Books, he has been a regular contributor to ABR since 2003.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.