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Quentin Tarantino talks to himself

The eccentric Russian intellectual Mikhail Bakhtin, writing on literature and semiotics from around 1919 until his death in 1975, had this crazy idea: Stories talk to one another. Bakhtin theorized that authors cobble narratives together from various “languages,” combining and juxtaposing familiar motifs, images and tropes from other stories as well as cultural associations, history and even clichés to tell a new tale. An active “listener-reader,” to use Bakhtin's term, simultaneously senses many levels to each story – the characters talking to one another within the story, the narrator telling us the story and the author speaking through the story. These levels engage in dialogue with one another, and the listener-reader constructs meaning by eavesdropping on their conversation. The different levels also address the artworks and narratives from which they have been created. They talk back.

In many stories, the author, like a magician, tries to hide his or her hand. But Bakhtin's ideas prove especially helpful in talking about stories where the author's presence comes through strong – like the movies of Quentin Tarantino.

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