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What I'm Reading

I've decided that I want to talk about books that I'm reading that I think other people should read, and the reasons thereof. 

First off: The Worm Ouroboros, by E.R. Eddison

This is a fantasy novel, published in England in 1926, and, I think, mostly ignored.  Dunsany and Cabell and Morris are all over the place, but Worm fell off the face of the earth.

I think this is mostly due to the difficulty of the language.  The prose style of Worm is damn near impenetrable, and it was supposed to form part of a series of other novels.  This makes the initial energy cost to get in very high.

The thing is, the language is impenetrable, but this is how heroes should talk! When you have gallant lords, world-crossing heroics, dark and dangerous sorceries, mighty deeds, and ultimate battles, the characters should not go "Nice day, Bob,  How's the wife?"  Eddison created an English that is part Homer, part Shakespeare, part King James, full of metaphor and imagery and long, long, long, long descriptive passages, because that is what this world is, and the language used to describe it should be as grand is it is.  It's worth getting over the hump of language, to savor the greatness of the story, Yes, there are plot holes the size of the great banquet hall at Owlswick.  Tough.  Eddison wasn't trying to write The Hunt For Red October, true-to-life authenticity was not his goal.

Language, in a fantasy setting, should help take you out of this world.  LeGuin understands this.  Katherine Kurtz learned it along the way.  Tolkien always knew it.  Goldman knows it, and makes fun of it in "Princess Bride", because he loves it.

It has always disappointed me that Roger Zelazny gave up on this.  The first of the Dilvish stories, "The Bells of Shoredan", was a great read, because the people did not speak as if they just got off the 5th Street bus.  "The wearer of the green boots of Elfland may not be thrown, but to land on his feet."  Now, doesn't that work better than "His magic boots made him land upright"?     The later stories, and all the Amber series, fell short of greatness IMO because everyone spoke  modern colloquial English.  He almost got back to it with "Eye of Cat", which I plan to talk about later.

I'm on my second copy of Worm, and one of these days I will see if I can find a hardback version on Amazon.

If this kind of entry inerests you, describe a book you love.  I intend to keep going ,regardless.  :)


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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
leadsporkofdoom
Oct. 29th, 2008 01:28 am (UTC)
Dark Light: Electricity and Anxiety from the Telegraph to the X-Ray by Linda Simon

It's dry in bits and you really wanna hit some of the great names in electrical research/marketing, but it helps as a good basis when comparing against the public's reaction to black box things like stem cells, genes, "green" tech and etc.
ccdesan
Oct. 29th, 2008 05:01 am (UTC)
Gasp! I haven't heard that title for over 30 years. Never owned a copy but there was one in the library at the U of Utah. To me it was kind of like The Sword of Shannara written by the tag team of Sir Walter Scott and James Joyce. Now I must read it again...

Edited at 2008-10-29 05:02 am (UTC)
deckardcanine
Oct. 29th, 2008 02:11 pm (UTC)
Convenient that you should say this as I prepare for NaNoWriMo. I intend to write a high fantasy of the down-the-rabbit-hole persuasion, so a couple characters will talk like they got off the 5th Street bus and others will sound stilted (the latter being preferable for word counts).

This is partly inspired by one of my favorite novels, The War of the Flowers by Tad Williams. It manages scary, sad, and funny just as well as his much longer sci-fi Otherland. And as high fantasy goes, it's remarkably credible. The ending passes for happy while acknowledging some things that really didn't work out and the potential for a dark future.
carlfoxmarten
Oct. 30th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
As I don't read much fiction, the only thing I can mention that wouldn't also be programming books is One Good Turn: a natural history of the screwdriver and the screw.

One word of warning, though: (okay, maybe two)
First, most of the story is about his search for the history of the screwdriver and screw, and Second, it's not completely authoritative, as he does make some of his own assumptions about them (though his are make much more sense than most other peoples' assumptions, which is a point in his favour).
sleepyjohn00
Oct. 30th, 2008 02:59 am (UTC)
Do you recall the author's name?
carlfoxmarten
Oct. 31st, 2008 11:04 pm (UTC)
Yes, Witold Rybczynski.
(how did I forgot to add that important piece of information?)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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