An Abundance of Katherines
Analysis: Writing Style
Non-linear Academic with a Twist
Did you notice how we only learn what happened between Colin and the Katherines in pieces throughout the book? That's because the novel is written with in a non-linear style, meaning it doesn't go chronologically. We get a series of flashbacks to another time while Colin is depressed in his room, or driving along the highway, and we're left to piece it all together for ourselves.
On the other hand, there's a sense of academic-ness to the novel. Not in a boring way, though—Green peppers the story with a bunch of footnotes, which compete for our attention. Take when Colin is thinking about winning Kranial Kidz, for example. A super long footnote tells us Colin made up:
a 99-word sentence in which the first letter of each word corresponded to the digit of pi (a=1, b=2, etc.; j=0). The sentence, if you're curious: Catfish always drink alcoholic ether if begged, for every catfish enjoys heightened intoxication; gross indulgence can be calamitous, however; duly, garfish babysit for dirty catfish children, helping catfish babies get instructional education just because garfish get delight assisting infants' growth and famously inspire confidence in immature catfish, giving experience (and joy even); however, blowfish jeer insightful garfish, disparaging inappropriately, doing damage, even insulting benevolent, charming, jovial garfish, hurting and frustrating deeply; joy fades but hurt feelings bring just grief; inevitable irritation hastens feeling blue; however, jovial children declare happiness, blowfishes' evil causes dejection, blues; accordingly, always glorify jolly, friendly garfish. (7.33)
Now we didn't really need to know that, but that sentence is there all the same, so what gives? Well, Green is giving us some backstory, sure, but he's also giving us more insight into the way Colin's mind works in these footnotes. They are like big, interesting tangents that give us a clearer picture of our main guy, in addition to being just the sort of factoids that Colin majorly geeks out over. Sometimes they're interesting, other times you don't really need to know them… just like in a conversation with Colin.