mjj (flemmings) wrote,

English reading

I finished The White Darkness. Sucked me in after three pages so I had to extricate myself that night and go do something normal before bed to calm my quivering and feel-bad soul ('This cannot end well.') YA is supposed to be clear and simple-minded, surely, not such a rollercoaster? Yes, I'm being facetious.

But I loved it that she had it so exactly right. That's what it's like to have someone in your head, talking to you, feeling like a separate existence even if you tell yourself occasionally that you made them up so you must be controlling what they say and do: only you aren't. Just the slightest bit scary making, that.

My adolescent experience of Whose reality is this anyway? was long before I started writing and went through it again with words on the page: that were *my* words dammit and my characters so why did they go off and do their own thing that I hadn't even thought of and couldn't have anyway? (Answer: because your brain is not only stranger than you know but stranger than you can know.) However the phenomenon of The Other In My Head is now familiar enough to me that I grow very polite when people talk about sensing God all about them, because I'm sure it's the same mechanism as someone else sensing Captain Oates.

And also- I like The White Darkness because for me it's a kind of obscure flip-off at Antonia Forest and her purse-mouthed joylessness towards a similar mindset in Peter's Room.

I picked TWD up at the library on Friday morning and went to get a coffee before work, and found myself obscurely dissatisfied that I only had TWD to read because what I *wanted* to be reading was Master and Commander. Which is, you know, very odd.

It's grown on me, which surprises me more than I can say, because so much of it has nothing to do with the *story* and everything to do with setting. I perversely approve of this approach in theory but I rarely see it done well, let alone convincingly, in fact. The last person I read who unleashed the wealth of information O'Brian does was Herman Melville and he did it badly. And yes, I read every word of Moby Dick, ignoring Richard Armour's advice that the reader misses nothing if he goes straight to chapter 105 after chapter 70. 'After all, Ahab isn't the only one entitled to be a skipper.'

Granted that the wealth of commonplace naval detail is just there, not put on display and explained as is the clumsy way of most writers; granted O'Brian throws his nautical language and details at you, sink or swim, simply as the way his main character naturally thinks; granted that even when an ignorant character comes and asks about the details of the ship presumably to enlighten the reader, the explanation is as muddled and unenlightening as RL explanations tend to be, so that one begins to think that maybe after all Stephen is asking his questions for quite another authorial reason: granted all that, Jack Aubrey's ship, to say nothing of Jack Aubrey's head, are not what I'd have considered congenial places for someone with my tastes: not for several hundred small-print pages certainly. But perverse again, I've come to like it. It's liberating. It's like being someone else.

No one is trying to make this congenial to modern tastes or relate it to modern reality. It's another country, take it or leave it. And while I'm a little apprehensive for the poor Master so hopelessly in love with fat Jack amid the general hostility to men like him, it's still bracing to find a book that will do exactly as it pleases thank you very much. You have to be very good and very modest to bring that off, and I begin to think those cover blurbs about the best historical fiction evvah! may have some truth to them. Even Mary Renault feels 20th century in her viewpoint but O'Brian feels of the period. Almost of the period. A period work I think wouldn't sound *quite* like him- or let's say, a fiction of the period would be constructed differently and a memoir of the period wouldn't have the novel's construction. Which is fine. I do want to know there's someone out there, of my own period, with an eye on what's happening inside the book, even if I'm never aware of him.

Santa Claus parade today and everyone in filthy tempers trying to drive away from it afterwards. But still, officially Christmas season in TO, hence my Christmas icon from xsmoonshine
Tags: o'brian, reading, reading_06, writing

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