Thursday, January 08, 2009

So begins a tale unequaled in fantasy literature.*

Over the past year, two of the most absorbing books I read were fantasy novels.

I will pause so that you may reflect.

The first was Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, a Socialist MP in the U.K.  I finished this book about a year ago.  The second was The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, who teaches writing in Wisconsin.  I finished this book the other night.  There are dragons in this book, and a university, and demons and faeries.  Yes, that is an "e" I inserted instead of the more usual, and modern, "i," in the word for "one of a class of supernatural beings, generally conceived as having a diminutive human form and possessing magical powers with which they intervene in human affairs." I did that, because now, I am apparently a person who reads fantasy novels.

You may not be aware of this fact, but it turns out that a well-written fantasy novel creates a world, and that this in turn generates a highly satisfying reading experience.  As in, you want to know what happens next, and you keep going in the hope that your dread about the demons, dragons, etc., will not be fulfilled.  This dread keeps you going and going and going, until you reach the end and then there's the next volume in the trilogy . . . which will not be published until April.  April! (Last night, after I finished The Name of the Wind but couldn't sleep, I totally pre-ordered it on Amazon.  According to Mr. Rothfuss's website, his trilogy is already substantially written, because when he was writing it, he didn't have any idea about how long a novel was supposed to be, so he basically wrote the whole trilogy.  And as is universally acknowledged, fantasy novels always come in trilogies.)

Well, in the meantime, I have The Scar, the second volume in Mieville's trilogy.  Also, when I need to change things up a little, I can go to the library and pick up a couple of Dublin detective novels.  And if that gets wearisome, I can read a little Proust, where nothing happens but the writing is exquisite.  I'm confessing right here and right now that, when it comes to novels, I'm almost always in the mood for something happening, even if it does involve medieval-ish spellings and the fey folk. Clearly, I'm going to have to try to keep this under control. 

*from the blurb on the back jacket of The Name of the Wind.


  1. This was such an interesting post to me. I've been reading THE GATHERING by Anne Enright and feeling pretty frustrated with it. It seems--pretentious. Overwritten. Even though the overwriting part is pretty exquisite. But i have the feeling that I'm going to get to the end of it and discover that I won't know anything more about what REALLY happened than I do right now. I liked that in a book when I was a twenty-something graduate student. Now? Hmmmm.

    Do I need to get this expectation under control, too?

  2. I'm so glad you liked The Name of the Wind. I read it last spring and thought it was fabulous. I still have the loaned copy of Perdido Street Station.

    Let's talk more about fantasy. It's a genre I read quite a bit of in my youth, a genre I'm getting back into. In fact, forget theory book club; let's do fantasy book club.

  3. I'm with ann, I used to like the pretentious and overwritten. Now I'm like, "is anything going to happen? Why won't anything happen?" Let this be a lesson to me, the writer, from me (and you) the reader.
    Sigh. I finished His Dark Materials, and therefore agree that all fantasy books come in trilogies.



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