I'm reading a book at the moment where the author often talks to the reader. I'm finding this off-putting and would be interested to hear others' thoughts.
Here's an example:
What gave graduates from Fallowfield the edge over other practitioners was the degree of competition they were exposed to during their studies. We have already seen an example of this competition with the tragic tale of Lawyer 1 and Lawyer 2. The scene described was a mock trial training exercise. Lawyer 1 and Lawyer 2 were students of Fallowfield University (on reflection maybe I should have called them Law Student 1 and Law Student 2, but that would have given the game away).
I think this is something that should be used sparingly (and, as others have said, this particular case is a bit grinding). But I can think of sparkling examples of its use - Tristram Shandy, say, or that disconcerting moment in The French Lieutenant's Woman when Fowles himself steps onto a train, looks his protagonist over, and asks out loud "What am I going to do with you?" And best of all is surely Spike Milligan's Puckoon, when Milligan (the author) continually promises Milligan (the protagonist) that his thin legs "will develop with the plot" (and so on).
This is a timely point, and I'm opening myself up here for advice from the collected Litopiati. I am just starting my second novel (am I allowed a fanfare for that?). The protagonist is a real historical figure - a renaissance painter, I'll just call him "J" for now.
The plot will focus on two crucial years in J's life, but will flash backwards to formative events and (very importantly) forward to his later years and the fulfilment of his ambitions. As a core theme of mine is immortality through art, I want to write instances where I, as author, speak directly to my readers, armed with my 500-year perspective on J's achievements and legacy. For example, in almost the first scene, J is being commissioned to paint a rich man. The rich man pleads with J to include his favourite hunting hound in the picture. J is a bit of a purist, he doesn't like this, but the dog limps over to J (who has a particular sympathy for the physically marred) and settles lovingly as his feet. J agrees to compromise on his usual standards. At that point I want to tell the reader how that same hound crops up again and again in J's paintings and name those paintings, and maybe even where they hang [the incident, and the hunting hound, are my fictions, but the paintings are real and they all do feature a particular type of dog]. I'll do this several (but not many) times across the length of the book, pointing the reader to real works of art in this way.
So, this is your chance to all tell me this is the worst idea you've ever heard (which is how I view it myself, roughly every other day - the rest of the time I think its great).