Sunday, February 03, 2008

What I'm Reading, Part I: Fiction

This will be my third attempt to get this blog going. For my 0.2 fans, I apologize.

First, I'll start with some brief snippets on what I'm currently reading.

The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss

It seems that a few times a year a new author is especially highly touted in speculative fiction; the rhetoric is usually the same: "The best new author to come along in years, decades even"..."An instant classic"..."I can truthfully say this is the best book I've read in a long time." Et cetera. Last year it was Patrick Rothfuss and The Name of the Wind, which was released in March.

Does it live up to the hype? At only about 70 pages in, and on my second try, it is too soon to say for me. A few months ago I read the first fifty pages, but then once the protagonist, Kvothe, starts narrating his biography, I was turned off. Why? Two reasons. First, I usually dislike (longer) stories within (shorter) stories because I want to find out What Happens Next, not What Happened Before. Sure, some of What Happened Before is good--but in The Name of the Wind, like Stephen King's Wizard and Glass, 90% of the next is a story-within-a-story. The second turn-off was Kvothe's tone, at least initially. He starts off by telling (not showing) us just how infamous and nefarious he is, which irritated me. I think it is a good rule of thumb that if someone tells you that he or she is a character, chances are he or she is not, but just trying to be a character.

All of that said, about a week ago I picked it up again and read a couple chapters and enjoyed it and (actually) plan on finishing it. I'll get back to you in a few weeks...

Acacia by David Anthony Durham

I'm not sure exactly what it was, but something inspired me to pick up a copy of Acacia. Like The Name of the Wind, I am only about 70 pages in. So far there is nothing extraordinary about Acacia, it is just generally a good book. If I had to compare it, I'd say it is somewhat similar to Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, which I also felt was very good but nothing special (except, perhaps, in being consistently very good in just about every facet of a novel). Again, as with The Rothfuss, I'll get back to you.

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Italo Calvino is new to me, and boy am I glad I picked this book up. I've seen the name around for years, and have grouped him in my mind with authors such as Umberto Eco and the South American Magical Realists (Borges, Marquez, etc.). I don't know quite how to describe this book as it isn't really a novel, but a series of vignettes, that are descriptions of fictional cities described by Marco Polo to Kublai Khan. The language is lush and richly imaginative, with little philosophical hooks that tantalize and twist the mind. Here is Polo's first description:

Leaving there and proceeding for three days toward the east, you reach Diomira, a city with sixty silver domes, bronze statues of all the gods, streets paved with lead, a crystal theater, a golden cock that crows each morning on a tower. All these beauties will already be familiar to the visitor, who has seen them also in other cities. But the special quality of this city for the man who arrives there on a September evening, when the days are growing shorter and the multicolored lamps are lighted all at once at the doors of the food stalls and from a terrace a woman's voice cries ooh!, is that he feels envy toward those who now believe they have once before lived an evening identical to this and who think they are happy, that time.
I love how Calvino weds the sacred and the profane, the mundane and magical.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Getting to know the authors (through the internet)

It often allows for one to get a "taste" of an author before reading and buying one of their books.

I've found that I often read books by authors that I like, or would like if I knew them. It perhaps goes without saying that a story, as an artistic creation, is a manifestation--a mental-verbal microcosm, if you will--of the author. It "is" the author, in a sense; regardless of how metafictional, how deliberately manipulative or consciously woven, a story represents who the author is.

To put it another way, a story--a narrative, verbal art-form--is an individual's participation in the world of ideas. When we craft a story, we are participating in human thought, the "noosphere."

So when we like a book, we often like the author. We like the way they think, they way they see the world, and the way they express themselves. Sure, there is some great art that has been created by great big assholes, but we like those assholes. Or, we love and hate them (Henry Miller is a case in point).

One of the great aspects of the internet is that it allows one to get to know authors more intimately, whether through reading their blogs, interviews, or even conversing with them on discussion boards. Now what I have found is that this provides the opportunity to "pre-screen" authors, to get a sense of who they are and thus what their writing might be like--and whether or not one would like it.

Now of course this isn't an absolute dictum, but it at least gives us a sense, a taste of the author--and thus their work--before spending our precious dough.

Through this process I have crossed off more than a handful of authors. Why? Because of the Postmodern Chic so prevalent within the specfic community. An example of a commonly held belief: Adult fantasy is Cool; adult fantasy = anything dark and edgy, anything postmodern, nihilistic, dark-leather-wearing, trash-talking, kicking ass and taking names. I see this sort of thing time and time again. The ironic thing about it is that this kind of Postmodern Chic reads more, to me at least, as an extended (early) adolescent, not as authentic maturity. Most adult/cutting edge/new weird/literary specfic fits into this broad categorization.

More soon.

Intro Redux

Let's try this again. Life Stuff, ya know? Anyways, I would like to use this blog to record and ponder various things related to the Literature of the Fantastic in general, but specifically fantasy and science fiction. You'll probably see a lot of quick thoughts, as well as short reviews and discussions of fantasy authors, themes, movies, etc. More to come.

Friday, April 20, 2007


A few things by way of introduction.

First, I plan on using this blog as a place to muse about books and writing, in particular speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy, some include horror under the same umbrella).

As for the the title word--imagicosmology--I came up with the term while studying cosmology to denote the creative, imaginary and imagistic nature of cosmological thinking. My primary art form involves imagicosmology: the creation of an imaginary world and cosmology (the common definition of which is "the study of the origins and nature of reality").

Finally, the layout. I downloaded this template here. It is quite elegant but, of course, also quite Tolkien. Perhaps at some point I will change it, but for now...

More to come.