Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"hey, kids, who wants to buy some aspirin!"

so having caught the fall crud over the weekend and forced into a prone position from last thursday night through yesterday morning, i had a lot of time on my hands to read. when i could keep my eyes open -- which wasn't all the time!

so for lack of anything else to talk about right now -- other than ongoing job-search anxiety and the "arggggh!" feeling of neither of my professors having read through my thesis draft (now due in two months in final form and me with a bad wrist so the last-minute spates of typing are more than usually painful) yet -- i'd really rather talk about books. and you'd rather have me talk about books. believe me.

so i feel i probably didn't do proper justice to michael cox's sequel to the meaning of night, the glass of time by reading it friday morning when i was pretty damn out of it. but it kept me from thinking too much about how the room kept spinning if i sat still for long enough and, since sitting still was all i could do, this was pretty much all the time. so i enjoyed it on that level! and it was good -- i think. it mostly held my attention despite the fever and headache, so that speaks well for it.

it's one of those "kind of not quite really a sequel"-style things. there are some of the original characters from night but not all and the narrator character is -- to my memory -- new. it follows a kind of bleak house/woman in white/moonstone arc with the young heroine sent off by her trusty guardians to enact the "Great Quest" (they call it something different) in the mysterious country house full of the english aristocracy and their secrets. it also sounds rather like jean rhys' wide sargasso sea every now and then -- if you've read sea, you'll know what i mean when you get there. i've never had any time for sea, but the feeling doesn't totally derail the story here. so far, so familiar. i won't say that cox does anything brilliantly innovative with the plot or manages to transcend the familiar too far -- but he writes well and seems to warm to his subject as he goes on. the last death scene in the book, witnessed by our fearless heroine, is particularly good. as "sequel not quite sequels" go, i enjoyed domino men more but if cox writes a third book, i'll read it.

i picked up freda warrington's elfland at the coolidge corner library strictly on the basis of good cover blurbs by charles de lint and tanith lee, two writers i love. de lint couldn't've been nicer about the book if he had tried and while his reviews are often generous, they're usually pretty dependable and i thought, 'what the hell.' i ended up finishing it 'cause i started it and once you're 250 pages into a 460+ page book, even if you realise it's a total trainwreck, you sort of have to finish it. there's a kind of unhealthy relationship there and there was at least one character -- the bad boy with the leather jacket, what more can i say? -- i liked.

i can't say the writing was bad because it wasn't. i can't say she totally wrecked the tradition of fairy/fantasy writing because she didn't. i can't say she ignored everything ever written before her because she didn't. but it was like days of our lives -- with elves. or, in a more english analogy, joanna trollope -- with elves. oh, and a kind of nebulous big bad ice giant'y guy who may or may not be an elemental from the beginning of the world or the personal psychotic delusion of a local nutsoid elflord-type. it was disappointing at every turn when it could have been transcendent -- or at least funny. it never managed to get above a kind of new age'y/crystals in the moonlight/'80s michael praed robin hood vision of elves and magic. de lint, even at his worst, does ten times better than this. if nothing else, his characters are always growing and changing -- sometimes in ways that clearly surprise him and often in ways that shock the hell out of you. there was nothing in elfland as visceral as anything de lint put into memory & dream -- it was all kind of...fuzzy. and the characters were exactly the same at the beginning as they were at the end and even domestic/emotional abuse was excused in the name of "i take it all back now; really, i'm sorry." disappointing in any realm, mortal or aetherial.

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