mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Summer returns here as well, meaning hotter than comfortable outside and shortly hotter than comfortable inside, once the heat penetrates. I seem to have some sort of malaise, so far confined to tiredness and sore neck and various joint aches, which I'm hoping is sleep deprivation and not the onset of a summer cold. Possibly these reasons explain the emotional umm blahs as well; or possibly it's just divine discontent.

'I'm remembering what summer is for' says my sister. (No, rot it, my imouto. It matters that she's my younger sister, though not for any obvious reason here.) 'It's for taking it slowly and reading a lot.' I agreed, as I made my leisurely way through Sorcerous Gentleman and Bloody Honour. Finished and very nice indeed- well no, not. I wanted more answers than I got, especially to minor points like what exactly happened to Panurgus long long ago because you notice we have two versions at least of how he died and things like that bother me. But still. New and different, at least, not to be told all, to have threads left dangling and revolvers over the mantle still unfired come the third act, and to be allowed to draw one's own conclusions about characters without much authorial direction. (Personally I think Prospero a candidate for retroactive abortion but other characters admire him, until I wonder if the other characters aren't a bit demented as well.) Yes well, very nice.

So begin the next duo on the recs list, Hunter's Oath and Hunter's Death. And, um, no. It may be a good book but no. Evidently I can't go from one English book to another just like that, even if I can happily do it with manga. (Manga are shorter, I grant you, and reading a 15-volume manga series does indeed leave you with a bit of jet lag where other manga look a tad pale and uninteresting for a bit.) But it's the language once again, and the general approach, that's calling up the And no I said no I won't Noes.

Starting with approaches, the characters in the Willey books were seen from enough different viewpoints, including their own, that they appeared multifaceted with, as well, large opaque chunks to them. Opaque characters usually drive me up a wall: they smack of 'I know something you don't know' cleverness on the author's part, or prim 'if you want to know what these people are like you'll have to *work* because I'm not going to do your work for you.' This reaction is all case by case, of course; but understanding an opaque character usually depends on being on the author's wavelength and/or having known somebody like the character so you can fill in the space. In the absence of these abilities the characters are just irritating blanks doing mad things for no perceptible reason. However Willey gives me enough information (some, if not all, of it unreliable) that I can at least make up my mind about her charas if so inclined. It becomes a game.

West OTOH does the standard tried and true approach. Her characters are exactly as she presents them and as I see them. This shouldn't bother me- it's the default- but coming after Willey it looks two-dimensional and flat-footed. Where's the complexity here? Their emotions are this-society's emotions (or if you will, emotions comprehensible to this society) presented in an ordinary fashion. Willey's characters OTOH had emotions incompatible with our standards. Witness Prospero again. (And no, it doesn't help that he recalls his Shakespearian namesake too closely to allow us to judge him purely as the creation of a 20th century author. But that's a neat trick too. Willey just wrote a Jacobean gentleman with extras.)

But most of all, the language. I think what gets me about most fantasy writers is that they write as if they'd never read anything written before 1950. It's the vocabulary more than anything that belongs to this-society-- and worse, to NAmerican this-society. The things that English was capable of, the things it's still capable of in regional variations, are a closed book to them. They write as if for television. Even certain Brits do it, though IME British English has a much wider vocabulary than American- not merely because of the regional diversity but because the language and style of Dickens and Austen and Fieldings and Walpole is still accessible as a living and usable form to anyone educated Brit-fashion; and if you're willing to be only slightly clever (or if you're my age) so is the language of Shakespeare and the King James version and Chaucer. There's just that much more to draw on.

I'd like to know what Willey's background is because she writes in that British tradition, even better than people like Barnett and Scott in their Points series. Those two were, I'll swear it, Renaissance studies majors (googled- Scott has a Ph.d in Comparative History, focus on the period from 16th-18th centuries) but they wear their language a little uneasily. Willey knows what she's doing. And I want more of that.
Tags: history, language, points, reading, reading_05, rl_05, willey

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