The greatest novels seem to have one thing in common: they take us through the looking glass. That is, these books tell stories within stories, taking us down the rabbit hole of a conversation, a dream, an historical event, a philosophical diatribe, a parallel universe. This demands loyalty and sometimes blind faith from the reader. We are required to bury our skepticism and follow the author through these detours. At times, it can feel hopeless, daunting, and even make us angry to be carried along these dark side roads that seem to lead nowhere. The French rightly call this predicament mise en abyme, being placed into the abyss. But, when handled with genius and artistry, we are given a parachute, a soft landing. Suddenly or gradually, we realize the roads led to somewhere after all. We feel mysteriously connected, understood, joined with some invisible force that seems to fill us with awe. We close our eyes, perhaps tearfully, nod our heads, and say to ourselves and the writer’s ghost, “Yes, I get it. I’m with you.”
As a writer, taking the reader through the looking glass gives a story a special kind of depth and intimacy. A depth that is rarely achieved by simply sticking to the plot. A depth much like the attraction, empathy, and private understanding that builds between two lovers. The more secrets they share, even if unremarkable or banal, the more something surprising and revelatory occurs between them. When you’ve entered someone’s inner universe and been privy to their untold stories, their kaleidoscope of thought, their philosophies, their dreams, you begin to truly Know them with a capital K. This is what taking the reader through the looking glass achieves- you lose yourself and become naked, exposed, uninhibited, unafraid- and, when you find a dedicated fellow psychic traveller, they feel the gift, this treasured depth that attaches them to your journey.
– P. A. Swirnoff