Archive for literature

the slow regard of silent things

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , on January 1, 2015 by xi'an

As mentioned previously, I first bought this book thinking it was the third and final volume in the Kingkiller’s Chronicles. Hence I was more than disappointed when Dan warned me that it was instead a side-story about Auri, an important but still secondary character in the story. More than disappointed as I thought Patrick Rothfuss was following the frustrating path of other fantasy authors with unfinished series (like Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin) to write shorter novels set in their universe and encyclopedias instead of focussing on the real thing! However, when I started reading it, I was so startled by the novelty of the work, the beauty of the language, the alien features of the story or lack thereof, that I forgot about my grudge. I actually finished this short book very early a few mornings past Christmas, after a mild winter storm had awaken me for good. And look forward re-reading it soon.

“Better still, the slow regard of silent things had wafted off the moisture in the air.”

This is a brilliant piece of art, much more a poème en prose than a short story. There is no beginning and no end, no purpose and no rationale to most of Auri’s actions, and no direct connection with the Kingkiller’s Chronicles story other than the fact that it takes place in or rather below the University. And even less connection with the plot. So this book may come as a huge disappointment to most readers of the series, as exemplified by the numerous negative comments found on and elsewhere. Especially those looking for clues about the incoming (?) volume. Or for explanations of past events… Despite all this, or because of it, I enjoyed the book immensely, in a way completely detached from the pleasure I took in reading Kingkiller’s Chronicles. There is genuine poetry in the repetition of words, in the many alliterations, in the saccade of unfinished sentences, in the symmetry of Auri’s world, in the making of soap and in the making of candles, in the naming and unaming of objects. Poetry and magic, even though it is not necessarily the magic found in the Kingkiller’s Chronicles. The Slow Regard of Silent Things is simply a unique book, an outlier in the fantasy literature, a finely tuned read that shows how much of a wordsmith Rothfuss can be, and a good enough reason to patiently wait for the third volume: “She could not rush and neither could she be delayed. Some things were simply too important.”

do novel writers need to make exceptional beings of their characters?

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2013 by xi'an

In the French literature part of the baccalauréat exam my daughter (and 170,000 other French students) took on Tuesday, the essay was about the above. It was quite a congenial theme and she seems to have enjoyed the opportunity to review her favourite books to argue the point. (She however declined to write a shorter version for the ‘Og, even in French..!) I wish I had time to expand on this, as it is a fairly rich field for arguing both ways, from Rabelais’ Gargantua and Dumas’ D’Artagnan to Melville’s Bartelby and Raymond Carver‘s characters (who often even remain unnamed). Opposing Flaubert’s Emma Bovary and Maupassant’s Jeanne for instance. Although my daughter considered Emma was in the “ordinary” camp… And discussing the characters in The Grapes of Wrath since this was one of the included texts. In my conclusion, despite advices not to answer the question in a definitive manner, I would however lean towards the quantum physics analogy that writers impact on the exceptional nature of their characters, since they become exceptional if only by appearing in the novel… (Check a mediocre online correction.)