The Books of My Numberless Dreams

The musical hack

Posted on: May 13, 2008

I just left Dan Green’s blog where Augustine complained about blogs being “Bookworm MySpace” which makes me feel rather guilty about this post. (Sort of. Mildly.) But I’m still pissed about being duped by this Rothfuss fellow’s hype machine, at myself more than anyone else. So, before I take a long trek to the bookstore in order to purge all my negative feelings before I get my $7.99 + tax back, I’d like to poke more fun at what is basically a writer among legions ‘doing’ other people, doing Tolkien. They [are] faint photocopies. You get these great big books which are set in a medieval kingdom that is basically somebody’s impression of what they liked about Tolkien, combined with what they enjoyed about playing Dungeons and Dragons as a high schooler. Thank you, Neil Gaiman. Maybe I’ll try one of your books after all.

In this scene our wearied hero walks home with his drunken friends after the beaaauuutiful girl of his dreams turns out to be dating one of his school colleagues.

In the fullness of time*, and with considerable help from Deoch and Wilem, I became drunk.

Thus it was that three students made their slightly erratic way back to the University. See them as they go, weaving only slightly. It is quiet, and when the belling tower strikes the late hour, it doesn’t break the silence so much as it underpins it**. The crickets, too, respect the silence. Their calls are like careful stitches in its fabric, almost too small to be seen***.

The night is like warm velvet around them. The stars, burning diamonds in the cloudless sky, turn the road beneath their feet a silver grey****. The University and Imre are the hearts of understanding and art, the strongest of the four corners of civilization. Here on the road between the two there is nothing but old trees and long grass bending to the wind. The night is perfect in a wild way, almost terrifying beautiful.

The three boys, one dark, one light, and one– for lack of a better word — fiery*****, do not notice the night. Perhaps some part of them does, but they are young, and drunk, and busy knowing deep in their hearts that they will never grow old or die. They also know that they are friends, and they share a certain love that will never leave them. The boys know many other things, but none of them seem as important as this. Perhaps they are right.*******

*Ugh! I don’t care if he’s even trying for a but of humour here. Unless you are at a writing level no lower than A.S. Byatt do not use this phrase. Not even ironically.

**Wtf does that mean?

***No. I would have liked to accept this, it makes marginally more sense than what came before, but is this all flowing from the boys “weaving” before? That makes it a “no”.

****I’m getting nitpicky now but can stars give off that much light, really? I’ll give it a pass on the assumption that I could be wrong, so accustomed I am to city living, and that in Faux Medieval Europe all things are possible.

***** You never have any better words. Never. Ever.

******This entire paragraph was maudlin sap and the chapter should have been nixed because it adds absolutely nothing to the story and there are no great ideas or show of style here that justifies its existence. Nothing in this book justifies its existence.

Well. I feel a little better now. Slightly.


8 Responses to "The musical hack"

Ha ha! Le barf.

Hey- I mentioned Niel Gaiman earlier, but I just wanted to add that you’re probably better off reading one of his graphic novels (preferably a Sandman compilation) than reading his books. I love his comic books, and then I tried reading his fantasy novel, American Gods, and gave up around page 160. His storytelling was very episodic. Most of the first 160 pages consisted of the two-dimensional hero bumping into one weird situation after another. I suspect that this might have been a set up and that we would later learn that the hero had no history and only a sliver of a personality because he actually was a god (and this would be revealed near the end) but the writing didn’t make we want to stick around for the ending.

I can’t praise the Sandman comics enough however.

– Armand

Raych! Perfect response.

Armand ahh, yes, if I approached Gaiman I would have gone for the comic books because it’s what his fans tend to rave about. Thanks for the confirmation, though! I tried his co-authored Good Omens for a reading group and could not finish it. Some moments shone but I thought the humour was a little too smug and self-satisfied.

“This entire paragraph was maudlin sap* and the chapter should have been nixed because it adds absolutely nothing to the story** and there are no great ideas*** or show of style**** here that justifies its existence. Nothing in this book justifies its existence.*****”


*That’s horseshit.

**That’s why it’s called a narrative aside.

***I disagree. Given the context of Kvothe relating his life story with the benefit of hindsight, these ideas of youth, friendship, and that naive lack of understanding about ones own mortality strike me as truthful and poignant. I also like that he returns to the theme of silence with which he began the book.

****I disagree again. This whole chapter you quoted stands as a fine example of his eminently readable and addictive style of writing.

*****One might say the same about gripe-fueled blog posts, if one were so inclined.

— Well sure it’s a narrative aside but it’s one in a 700+ page book that adds absolutely nothing to the story because everything you said in the “I disagree” explanation has already been explicitly shown before. It’s like writing out a mathematical equation in prose. I know it’s en vogue for these kind of books to run up in the hundreds of pages and continue into twelve dozen chronicles but I don’t have the patience for such needless extravagance unless your writing style is several notches above serviceable.

— It is definitely readable, because it’s pedestrian, boring and available in, perhaps, every other book in the fantasy section.

–I never denied that this post was an indulgence and pretty pooterish. I think it’s ok to do that in a freely accessible personal reading diary. When I’m paying for the next big craze in fantasy I raise my standards. To be fair, though, I don’t think I’m a high fantasy fan. I can’t be if this is what the fans are currently holding up as Teh Best Thing Evar.

I do like different perspectives. 😀 If you bother to return could you tell me what you think of the excerpt I quoted here? So I can see what others are getting out of it. Besides it’s being “readable”.

“I just left Dan Green’s blog where Augustine complained about blogs being “Bookworm MySpace” which makes me feel rather guilty about this post. ”

Nah, no reason to feel that way, even micro-mildly, Imani (as though you need to be told). I was only taking a (much-appreciated, clearly) swipe at the cozy little coven of those who see themselves as the future of critical literature.

Re: hype machines: duping us is their job, and they do it well.

Ugh. No craft. I’m confused tho, is this Gaiman?

Oh no no no no no no, I’m sorry for not sourcing it properly. It’s written by Patrick Rothfuss from his prize-winning novel The Name of the Wind. The quote about writers just redoing LOTR + RPG is by Gaiman. And I’m happy to see that someone else sees the lack of craft. 🙂

Steven A yes, I picked that up after you identified them as the self-labelling new critical guard.

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