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bear by san

March 2017

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bear by san

I haven't read this book in fifteen years.

And yet, I love it still.

Listen:

[after the scene in which everybody writes down their Christmas wishes, some real, more metaphysical:

Down to the study they had gathered with eggnog and their letters. Doc had his folded like true correspondence, its backside dimpled with hard-struck punctuation; Mother's was torn from a brown bag, like a shopping list. The fire took them all, though--rejecting only Lily's at first who tried with a shriek to throw it in the fire's mouth, you can't really throw a piece of paper, she'd learn that as she grew in grace and wisdom--and Tacey insisted they go out to see. Smoky took her by the hand, and lifted Lily onto his shoulders, and they went out into the snowfall made spectral by the house's lights to watch the smoke go away, melting the falling snowflakes as it rose.

When he recieved these communications, Santa drew the claws of his spectacles from behind his ears and pressed the sore place on the bridge of his nose with thumb and finger. What was it they expected him to do with these? A shotgun, a bear, snowshoes, some pretty things and some useful: well, all right. But for the rest of it... he didn't know what people were thinking anymore. But it was growing late; if they, or anyone else, were disappointed in him tomorrow, it wouldn't be the first time. He took his furred hat from its peg and drew on his gloves. He went out, already unaccountably weary though the journey had not even begun, into the multicolored arctic waste below the decillion stars, whose near brilliance seemed to chime, even as the harness of his reindeer chimed when they raised their chaggy heads at his approach, and as the eternal snow chimed too when he trod it with his booted feet.

--John Crowley, Little, Big]

Ladies and gentlemen, the power of the omniscient point of view. Crowley is one of those writers who can conjure an image at once whimsical and sad and hopeful and three or four other things besides. He is a conjurer of words.

Also, reading Cather, Morrison, and Crowley back to back is a great way to reinforce to one's self just how pathetic one's delusions of adequacy really are.

Comments

Ah, I need to reread that book, too. :)
Whoa.

If the early novelists had used Omni like *that* it'd still be the default POV for novels today. Or the one considered the most perfect, at least.
In literary circles, it is. Considered a powerful tool, anyway.

It just ain't easy, is all. And in genre circles, we have a tendency to take most of our writing advice from the pulp tradition.

But here, also, look at this:

'The light, full and smooth, lay like a gold rind over the turf, the furze and yew bushes, the few wind-stunted thorn trees. From the ridge, the light seemed to cover all the slope below, drowsy and still. But down in the grass itself, between the bushes, in that thick forest trodden by the beetle, the spider and the hunting shrew, the moving light was like a wind that danced among them and set them to scurrying and weaving. The red rays flickered in and out of the grass stems, flashing minutely on membranous wings, casting long shadows behind the thinnest of filamentary legs, breaking each patch of bare soil into a myriad individual grains. The insects buzzed, whined, hummed, stridulated, and droned as the air grew warmer in the sunset. Louder yet calmer than they, among the trees, sounded the yellowhammer, the linnet and greenfinch. The larks went up, twittering in the scented air above the down. From the summit, the apparent immobility of the vast blue distance was broken, here and there, by wisps of smoke and tiny, momentary flashes of glass. Far below lay the fields green with wheat, the flat pastures grazed by horses, the darker greens of the woods. They too, like the hillside jungle, were tumultuous with evening, but from the remote height turned to stillness, their fierceness tempered by the air that lay between.

--Richard Adams, Watership Down

Now that is command of the language.
Ah, Little, Big. I read it once a year but it's always on my bedside table, to be opened and savored at random. The company there is pretty rarefied, but John Crowley deserves his place next to P. G. Wodehouse and Kenneth Grahame.
That's awesome.

Prose usually gives me the impression of seeing much less than what I see with my own eyes. Just glimpses. Which isn't a bad thing. I think prose is good when it shows me those glimpses from an angle I hadn't considered.

But Omni stands outside that scale of quality. Stands outside and waaaaay far above. Reading those two quotes is like seeing more than I could ever see with my own eyes, even if I could stand a while and look hard.

Wonderful.
That's the trick of it, really. Written badly, it skips you over the surface of the story like a stone. (Thriller omniscient) But written well, it picks you up and flings you hard and then sends you swopping back over the landscape with an infinitely focusable eye.
Little, Big is one of my favorite books. It's on my to-be-reread pile.
It's all so subtle and wonderful, whate he does there.

It makes me green. Totally green. *g*
Sigh. Ain't Crowley just grand? :)
I finally managed to read it a couple of years ago. Subtle, enchanting, intriguing.

"Also, reading Cather, Morrison, and Crowley back to back is a great way to reinforce to one's self just how pathetic one's delusions of adequacy really are."

And, since my wife's absolute favorite writer is Crowley, and her absolute favorite book is Little, Big, reinforce my deeply-hidden suspicion that my wife will always be comparing what I write to Crowley. Unfavorably, of course. :-)
One of my favourite books ever :)
I manage to break that book out every year or two at most, and sink into it once more -- not only do I love the story, but I love the experience of just letting his language flow over me. It's music, is what he does. Pure, beautiful music.

Sometimes its the turns of phrase he uses -- like the one picnic, where he describes them drinking sea-dark wine.
Wow...can you believe I've never heard of that book? I'm putting it on my "to read" list immediately!

Another person who I've come across who does great with language is Robert E. Howard. I'm going through his tales of Solomon Kane, and his language is so charged that you can almost feel the energy flowing through it.

I've also read A Handmaid's Tale, and that, outside of being really disturbing, is great in terms of first-person narrative. It would seem easy to write, but it seems you have to become that character, down to imitating his/her speech patterns.

Chris
Okay, I missed the Cather post. Which of my Cathers did you find? ;)

(A lot of my 'classics' are at work, alas.)
Totally unrelated to your post, but where is the figure in that icon from? It looks like something out of "Rex Mundi" (and one of the most ambitious costumes on my list! ;))
read it over Christmas for the first time in about five years and it's evergreen magic, even though the Frederic Barbarossa bit still doesn't quite work...
I loved it. Must re-read. I was not so struck with Aegypt but I enjoyed the premise...must re-read that, too.
*adds to to-be-read pile*