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8.07.2008

Subjects?

I had a thought about blogging the other day, some subject that seemed worthy of these 'pages'. And now, of course, I can't remember what it was. Was it the stranger showering from our sprinkler spigot at three in the morning? My mother saw her from the window, but did not interfere. It seemed an awkward moment to assert property rights.

Or was it the teen book I picked up the other day and won't pick up again?
A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray. It has two sequels and everything. Very unfortunate. It's structured within a post-Victorian British Empire based more on 21st-century prejudices and assumptions of old-world gender-restrictions than actual fact. It seems to try to get away with its diversion from true historical representation by involving itself in a very confused world of dark magic. I say confused, because you find the author has dropped you into it without warning. There were several times where I had to turn back a page or two to find the elusive point of transition from the faux-Victorian world to the pseudo-magical world. Perhaps if I had kept reading, it would have become more developed and less clumsy, but the dialogue and character development was so hackneyed... it sounded like something I would have tried to write in middle school. On the other hand, it sounded like something I would have enjoyed in middle school. It would have been book candy at the time. It's the sort of book that assures me I have grown up in the last decade or so.

And there goes my new years resolution to have fewer opinions. To counter all the criticism, here's one point of virtue in these books: they have beautiful covers. Almost makes you wish you wore a corset.


So anyway, I put the book down after several chapters and picked up The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. Which is BRILLIANT. The trouble with good books is that I am not nearly as creative in describing them, so I'll just leave it at that. Particularly because I haven't finished it yet. And this is one I absolutely will be picking up again. I may even find myself writing little love notes to M. T. Anderson, author extraordinaire. And hoping against hope that I might find myself an advanced reader copy of Volume II, coming out this October. I think.
exclusive addition: It seems unfair of me not to include some of Anderson's own brilliance. Here's a chopped-up passage from the first part of Volume 1:
[Dr. Trefusis] was possessed of a belief that nothing existed, or to be more precise, that only when things were perceived could we be sure that they existed. He troubled himself in arguments, therefore, that when he was not in his chamber, and no one else was in his chamber, there was no one who could say beyond a shadow of a doubt that his desk still existed, no one to say that the candle still guttered by the bed; or that the bed had not simply frayed apart into atoms.
To combat this situation, he requested that one of the slaves periodically creep to his door when he was absent, and hurl it quickly open, to determine whether the desk remained, or whether, with no one to perceive it, it had simply given up and dissipated....
He maintained that we were surrounded by a vast shadow, a universal emptiness as wide and long as space, in which there were small molten bulbs of color and light, wheresoever there were beings to perceive them. He believed that as we walked, the world of objects unfurled before us like the painted scene for a play, turrets and moats, and topiary aisles slapping down into place just before we would arrive.
Once, late at night, he roused me and took me to an empty room. I was somewhat afraid. The silence of the house was enormous.
He stood me with my back to the wall, one inch from the paneling. He stood next to me. We faced the same way.
'Sir,' said I, 'for what have you--,' but he hissed, and I fell silent.
For a long while, we stared straight forwards, side by side, in the empty room. It was a summer night, and the dogs of the town barked for a time, and then ceased. Still, we stood. Some ten minutes passed; then fifteen.
'Do you feel it, child?' he asked. 'The wall is gone. Space is gone from behind us.'
I could feel nothing.
He said, 'All that is there now is the eye of God.' He shivered. 'The pupil is black, and as large as the world.'

2 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness. I was going to read A Great and Terrible Beauty and actually picked it up in your store the other day. They have great covers, which is what intrigued me in the first place. Thank you for the honest review - I will save myself the time and read something else.

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  2. Have I been too critical? I don't think so. The book seemed like a poorly written Victoria Holt novel. So just read Victoria Holt and LOOK at Libba Bray's covers. How's that? :)

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