Roughly one month ago, my old paperback copy of King's On Writing resurfaced, seemingly happenstance, and I, in turn, told my wife, Tanya, that she s Roughly one month ago, my old paperback copy of King's On Writing resurfaced, seemingly happenstance, and I, in turn, told my wife, Tanya, that she should read it. "You really should," I emphasized. She demurred, practically insisting I re-read it. "Even though it would be my third reading?" I asked, incredulous that she'd suggest such a thing. She went on to say--and hope--that it'd inspire me enough to write again.
Needless to say, her words impacted me, and I couldn't clear my mind of the notion. She really believes in me, I thought, as if I didn't already know. A few weeks later, the decision had been made. As soon as I cracked open the book, I found it difficult to put down. A very serene quality overcame me, and I just knew I'd made the right choice. I believe that God had used Tanya to speak to me; to guide me in the correct direction. The autobiographical section served as a reminder of the love I feel for it. The reader also gains a sense of King's formative years, told in a humble way. However, the text didn't begin to earnestly hit home until around p. 139:
" '..If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot..' "
Immediately after said paragraph, I took a minute to ask myself: is that really what I want to do? Where do my other passions lie? Frankly, nothing else quite compares. I can't see myself doing anything else. Once again, that divine sense of rightness overwhelmed me, radiating throughout my being. A handful of pages later, another passage gripped me. In it, King talks about how some writer's aren't prolific, or tend not to write as much as they could. The following is very profound, and left me feeling utterly dumbstruck:
" '..I'm probably being snotty here, but I am also, believe me, honestly curious. If God gives you something you can do, why in God's name wouldn't you do it?' "
Why, indeed? I asked myself. Why aren't I utilizing my God-given talent? What's stopping me from doing His will?
At about the halfway point (what King calls "the heart of the book,") there's a particularly telling paragraph in which he likens his "secret of my success" to maintaining his marriage to Tabitha King, who's strong-willed and self-reliant, amongst other things. He goes on to express a strong belief in the opposite, as well:
" '..that my writing and the pleasure I take in it has contributed to the stability of my health and my home life..' "
Reading the latter made me realize that Tanya and I's marriage has more than likely suffered because I haven't worked on my fiction in a very long time. In fact, our marriage has suffered to some extent or another. Simply put, I'm not the same person when I haven't written in awhile.
A bit further in, while discussing the importance of theme, and an especially severe case of writer's block: " '..If I'd had written two or even three hundred pages of single-spaced manuscript instead of more than five hundred, I think I would have abandoned The Stand and gone on to something else--God knows I had done it before. But five hundred pages was too great an investment, both in time and creative energy; I found it impossible to let go. Also, there was this little voice whispering to me that the book was really good, and if I didn't finish I would regret it forever..' "
Immediately, this brought to mind my unfinished novel. I can relate because I, too, have come much too far to leave it as is. I'd eternally regret it. Not only that, I hear that ever gentle voice , telling me it's good.
On the cusp of the books' conclusion, King briefly describes his tragic roadside accident which nearly killed him. Parts of the narrative are difficult to read, and all five senses are fully utilized. In so doing, the reader is transported to that fateful day and locale, to the point that you can almost smell Smith's chocolate bar, see the resulting blood, and King's excruciating agony can nearly be felt. It feels that real. Following the accident, he didn't want to write again. The pain involved would be too intense. If not for Tabby, On Writing might not have seen completion (though I'd like to think it would have happened regardless.) He might have even forsook the craft entirely. King's story, and eventual recovery, inspired me to no end. I really hadn't expected it to make such an impact. Beneath all that emotion, I felt that if King managed to write under such trying circumstances, certainly I can. If the desire's there, I think anyone can. ...more
Hmmm... what to say about Wolves.. It's been about a week and a half since I finished reading it, and I remain uncertain as to how I actually feel ab
Hmmm... what to say about Wolves.. It's been about a week and a half since I finished reading it, and I remain uncertain as to how I actually feel about it.
First and foremost is Sai King's exquisite writing. It has never disappointed me in the past, and this certainly isn't an exception. If anything, my second journey with Roland and his ka-tet has served to heighten my heartfelt appreciation and respect for his work. I also love the Calla, how it's vividly described, and all it entails. I especially enjoyed the incorporation of Pere Callahan's character. However, I'm not sure if his extensive back story was entirely necessary to the Tet's quest. Admittedly, I think it's relevant to the series, and it certainly goes far toward character development, but I ask again: it it wholly necessary? That I cannot say. It's definitely interesting, though. But the Father (Donald Callahan, from 'Salem's Lot,) isn't the only one "telling tales." There are two additional ones told, which are-in the long run-helpful in figuring out the mystery that is Wolves of the Calla. One, in particular, brings to light a HUGE advantage in the form of Susannah's Riza throwing abilities.
Additionally, I very much enjoyed the friendship between Jake and Benny Slightman the Younger.
As for the actually battle itself, it almost seems anti-climatic, due mostly to the nearly constant up-build and hype throughout the novel, and the fact that it lasts a mere five minutes. Keep in mind, I said "almost anti-climatic." With the unanticipated and sudden cliffhanger, I think King makes up for the slight letdown of a battle.
All in all, another fantastic Dark Tower installment! ...more
Recently, a good GR friend agreed that the word 'magical' is a great way of describing The Talisman. In turn, she shared a quote by Markus Zusak:
Recently, a good GR friend agreed that the word 'magical' is a great way of describing The Talisman. In turn, she shared a quote by Markus Zusak:
“Sometimes you read a book so special that you want to carry it around with you for months after you've finished just to stay near it.”
Only now can I not only fully agree, but appreciate the sentiment behind Zusak's words.. although it's uncertain if he was referring to this particular novel. It's incredibly profound, and they describe my feelings toward The Talisman perfectly. (Thank you, once again, Michelle.)
Yet there's more to it than mere magical elements. Much more. At the heart of the story is 12-year-old Jack Sawyer, whose sold purpose seems to be his ailing mother's salvation. In order to acquire that, however, he must venture east.. and beyond. In the days leading to his departure, Jack meets the truly invaluable "Speedy" Parker. Insodoing, King & Straub expertly introduces the Constant Reader to him, as well. The duo transports you there, right alongside them. They are long-lost friends, indeed!
This being my 3rd reading, they took me on a roller-coaster of a journey which surpassed my considerably high expectations. With that admission, I have another valid confession: I tend to be a very analytical reader, especially compared to my previous experiences with the book. One scene, in particular, stands out as slightly unrealistic: our protagonist's leave-taking. I seriously do not recall having this reaction. Perhaps with age and maturity, we perceive things differently, thus reacting in various ways, I really don't know...
Part II: The Road of Trials, is easily a favorite section of mine. As the title suggests, it chronicles the genesis of Jack's epic journey. It's life-altering, as his adventures help form the man he is to become. This is precisely why I love the section so very much.
"..Another light perhaps eight blocks down changed to green before a high dingy many-windowed building that looked a mental hospital, and so was probably the high school.."
The words conveyed to describe the bleak beauty of Oatley are utterly amazing and awe inspiring ..as I believe is evident in the previous passage.
The character of Wolf is very memorable (I haven't forgotten him since my first reading, in 1999.) He's beloved, and so masterfully crafted that you can't help the urge to run toward him with a warm embrace. In times of sorrow, joy, or imminent danger, your heart goes out to him. it breaks your heart, really. Well, it did mine, anyway.
As the journey continues, the reader is treated with an attribute rarely given by the so-called "latest and greatest" writers of today. In Jack, for instance, we learn much about his personal character (as opposed to the superficial,) to the point that it almost feels like an invasion of his privacy. King & Straub delve deep, exposing cherished memories, childhood fears, and the like. Most interestingly, the mind-set of the characters.
The juxtaposition between Jack and Richard Sloat still astonishes me. One thought plagued me, relentlessly, and that is, How is it possible for two individuals-who are polar opposite of one another- to be so incredibly close? It hardly seems plausible, even now, yet it's true. Brilliant work, King and Straub!
I'd never experienced this before, but at a certain point, I had a genuine Eureka! moment, which commenced with the realization that this duo were clearly influenced by C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia and, to an extent, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.
P.491: "..The coats and suits are gone, the floor is gone, but it isn't crisp white snow underfoot; it's stinking black dirt which is apparently the birthing ground for these unpleasant black jumping insects; this place is by no stretch of the imagination Narnia..."
492: ".. And later that day, he takes all of his storybooks--The Little Golden Books, the pop-up books, the I-Can-Read books, the Dr. Seuss books, the Green Fairy Book for Young Folks, and he puts them in a carton, and he puts the carton down in the basement, and he thinks: "I would not care if an earthquake came now and opened a crack in the floor and swallowed up every one of those books. In fact, it would be such a relief that I would probably laugh all day and most of the weekend.." "
By the fourth and final section, aptly entitled The Talisman, I absolutely loved every word. I though that it couldn't possibly get any better, but I was mistaken... by far. From the Blasted Lands to the very end of their adventures, and virtually everything in between, this one has it all. Excluding the spectacular conclusion, I really enjoyed and have much respect for the chapter centered around Richard's past, and-ultimately- how he deals with it.
On a side note, Jack's mother, Lily Cavanaugh, felt very distant throughout most of the novel. I had the impression that she was, in a way, detached from reality. And aside from her debilitating illness, I barely felt anything for her at all. That is, until the end. This development impacted me greatly!
If I had a critique to give, I'd comment on the novels' wordiness. And it can be a bit long-winded in places, but its innate visual enhancements make them almost necessary. Hardly a critique at all, eh?
Up next, Black House. I haven't read it since the initial HC publication, circa 2001. I remember practically nothing of the text, so as you can probably imagine, I am very much looking forward to this one!
For the most part, I immensely enjoyed Song of Susannah. It's a fast-paced novel with plenty of surprises, revelations, and much more.
The 2nd Stanza
For the most part, I immensely enjoyed Song of Susannah. It's a fast-paced novel with plenty of surprises, revelations, and much more.
The 2nd Stanza, in particular, really stands out for me, as it sets up the rest of the book quite nicely. And King does it so seamlessly.
I think the entire Tet are developed well, but that of Eddie Dean is truly exceptional. I love how irate he became over Calvin Tower's obsession with his precious books. In this scene, the reader realizes just how far Eddie has come from his former lifestyle, which is exactly why he was so very angry. Even Roland takes note by his rather candid question: "You want to kill him, don't you?"
Along with this comes the development of their dinh, Jake, Father Callahan.. even Oy, to some degree. But in light of the novel's apt title, I would have liked to see more emphasis on Susannah's character development, as opposed to Mia and their chap. Speaking of which, I think that said sub-plot tends to drag on slightly. At the same time, I realize that in the long run, it all takes place in a relatively short amount of time... it probably just seems a lot longer because it's interspersed throughout the entire novel.
I also loved the notion of Susannah's Dogan being her subconscious, and the various personalities combating one another and also working together in unique ways.
The insertion of "the writer" is very interesting, too. I loved it the 1st time I read it, and this was no exception. It's brilliant, yet quite ballsy. I clearly understand why so many readers would be turned off by what could easily be perceived as arrogance on King's part, or a God complex, if you will. And the opening scene of the chapter where Eddie and Roland not only sense the enormous power of the forest, but actually see the omnipresent faces is truly awe inspiring. I love, love, LOVE that scene!
Last but certainly not least, the reader is left with quite a cliffhanger at the end. You just NEED to know what happens next! ...more
In the early eighties, Stephen King and Peter Straub embarked on the ultimate coming-of-age tale. The Talisman easily solidified the collaboration's In the early eighties, Stephen King and Peter Straub embarked on the ultimate coming-of-age tale. The Talisman easily solidified the collaboration's super status. Then, nearly two decades later, they returned to their literary roots. Black House portrays a different Jack Sawyer, now a semi-retired Los Angeles detective. He won't remain there much longer, though. By requesting his expertise in a major case, a colleague-turned-friend leads him to Wisconsin, where his life will be irrevocably altered...in numerous ways.
Black House is very different from its predecessor. One of the most significant changes is the unique writing style. Almost everything's shown by way of what I like to call "an eagle's eye" view. This can be somewhat difficult and frustrating to adjust to, and I completely understand that critique. It's also a little slow at first. We're not actually reunited with Jack until the first 60 or so pages. My first time through the Coulee Country, I struggled with it a bit, too. But it being a King novel, I knew a big payoff was inevitable.
And maintaining his "I'm retired" mindset, Jack is reluctant to aid the local police investigation of a string of grisly serial killings. It's only until a young boy is abducted that Jack agrees to assist the authorities.
With the addition of a handful of eccentric characters (including the ever positive, delightful, and beloved Henry Lyden,) we're given recurring appearances of one or more characters from The Talisman.
One new addition, named Charles Burnside, alludes to a less than pleasant childhood, leaving something to be desired. I wanted to know more. For instance, how exactly was he mistreated (presuming, of course, that was the case,) what were his parents like? Who were his parents? What events helped form the individual shown throughout the novel? More importantly, can he be empathized with, knowing what we do about him? Should we be expected to? I felt next to nothing for him, whatsoever. Unless my utter abhorrence of him is put into consideration. That particular emotion resonates in every fiber of my being. But if I may return briefly to the aforementioned alluding, my heart does go out to him. Though all too fleeting...
How about his time in Chicago? He displays an abundance of scorn which tells the reader of his pent-up resentment. What specifically happened there, though? That being said, I love the duality of ol' "burn, burn's" voices and/or accents. (In general, it's always a pleasure to find elements of duality in fiction, but in this case, I think King and Straub pulled it off exceptionally well.) Reminiscent of some nefarious-yet equally skilled- ventriloquist, the sequence baffles the mind in every sense of the word.
Additionally, I think I probably would have been more impacted if our killer had been less supernatural and more human. Why do I emphasize this point? Because, as of late, I've come to realize that villains who are more less fantastical (Rose Madder's Norman Daniels or The Shining's Jack Torrance, to name a few) have a much larger affect on me.
I almost wish that the killer's identity had been withheld a bit longer. I believe if they'd done so, it would have created a much more suspenseful, biting-your-nails quality. Then again, the story's pretty dark and creepy. King and Straub probably weren't very interested in its mystery; contrarily, this story is very horror-orientated.
All throughout, a recurring theme is explored in interesting way(s:) repressed memories. This literary technique is seen in multiple characters, primarily our protagonist, Jack Sawyer. On a related note, scientific studies indicate that particularly traumatic experiences often result in repression, as a defense mechanism. And speaking personally, I'm a firm believer. I can recall very little of my childhood. I'm not the only one, either. King and Straub said it best: "Amnesia is merciful." Indeed.
The final showdown (and the all-important journey toward that end,) felt slightly long-winded, but the psychological aspects almost demand it. As for the battle itself, I am torn. On the one hand, it is quite phenomenal. On the other, there's a comic book quality which renders it somewhat unrealistic. As a result, I'm left with many questions whose answers I'd be interested in learning.
Then, due to unforeseen events, Jack is inadvertently transported back to his past, so to speak. By taking their story in this direction, King and Straub present a few very suspenseful closing pages. I was literally holding my anxious breath and hoping for the best. I also realized the depth of my love and admiration for this amazing man. And through certain revelations, things are left open. There simply MUST be a 3rd book!!
Largely due to the failure of his forth novel, The Armageddon Rag George R.R. Martin took a ten-year writing hiatus, starting in 1986. But in 1991, h Largely due to the failure of his forth novel, The Armageddon Rag George R.R. Martin took a ten-year writing hiatus, starting in 1986. But in 1991, he was inspired by a sudden, all too vivid image which sparked his imagination, and eventually marked his triumphant return.
”I started with a vision of a scene where some wolf pups are discovered being born with a dead mother in the snow. It just came to me very vividly, and I wrote it. I didn’t know what story it was part of or what world it was part of. I didn’t know anything. But by the time I finished writing that chapter, I knew the second chapter. And once I was 50-60 pages into it, I decided I had a novel – or maybe more than a novel – so I thought I’d better draw a map and think about who these people were …”
He was also inspired by the real-life edifice Hadrian’s Wall (serving as a blueprint of sorts, for his seven hundred foot creation, which he aptly titled the Wall.)
”Well, some of it will be revealed later so I won’t talk about that aspect of it, but certainly the Wall comes from Hadrian’s Wall, which I saw while visiting Scotland. I stood on Hadrian’s Wall and tried to imagine what it would be like to be a Roman soldier sent here from Italy or Antioch. To stand here, to gaze off into the distance, not knowing what might emerge from the forest. Of course fantasy is the stuff of bright colors and being larger than real life, so my Wall is bigger and considerably longer and more magical. And, of course, what lies beyond it has to be more than just Scots.”
Amongst others, he’s cited the novels The War of the Roses, Ivanhoe, and the frequently compared, The Lord of the Rings.
Martin’s themes tend to be rather vague, ranging from idealism, melancholy, and tragic herocism. Courtesy of reviewer T. M. Wagner, “Let it never be said Martin doesn’t share Shakespeare’s fondness for the senselessly tragic.”
Throughout A Game of Thrones (the first installment of seven,) there are healthy doses of the historical and religious, which I believe play significant roles. In the introduction to the 1955 classic, The Iron King (yet another source of inspiration,) GRRM writes:
”Over the years, more than one reviewer has described my fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, as historical fiction about history that never happened, flavored with a dash of sorcery and spiced with dragons. I take that as a compliment. I have always regarded historical fiction and fantasy as sisters under the skin, two genres separated at birth.”
Seen throughout the series are a number of fictitious religions, many based on actual faiths. The Seven gods, for example, came from from the Christian Holy Trinity; while the Mother, Maiden, and Crone derive from Paganism. Or in Greek mythology, it’s the Fates who embody this aspect, while the Father, Smith and Warrior come from “abrahamic” masculine elements. Additionally, the Lord of Light, R’hllor, was loosely based on Zoroastrianism and the Cathars (who were destroyed in the Albigensian Crusade.)
When asked about religion: “I suppose I’m a lapsed Catholic. You would consider me an atheist or agnostic. I find religion and spirituality fascinating. I would like to believe this isn’t the end and there’s something more, but I can’t convince the rational part of me that makes any sense whatsoever. That’s what Tolkien left out — there’s no priesthood, there’s no temples; nobody is worshiping anything in the Rings.”
World-building is easily one of the strongest tools in his impressive repertoire. Laying the foundation throughout Thrones prologue, we see snapshots of the enigmatic and aforementioned Wall, coupled with smigdeons of folklore (also a recurring theme,) surrounding this architectural monster, which signifies “the end of the world,” and protects its inhabitants from horrific creatures such as the wildlings. From there, GRRM expertly explores Winterfell (home of the Starks, the Kings of the North,) Riverrun, and takes the reader to locales like the Eerie, Dothraki sea, and seemingly everywhere in between. Populating the Seven Kingdoms are an abundance of colorful, well rounded individuals, whom I won’t forget for a very, very long time. From all walks of life, the shady Lannisters, honor-bound Starks, Targaryen’s, not to mention many other Houses, they’re all vying for the coveted Iron Throne. Martin’s exquisite writing, character-driven plot made for fun, utterly compulsive reading. It would not be complete without a wide variety of twists and turns; political intrigue; romance, adventure; and backstabbing betrayal. Nothing is quite as it appears. No one can be trusted (least of all GRRM,) whom takes the age old adage, “Kill your darlings,” and makes it all his own. Some may even say that he sometimes takes it to the extreme, and I concede.. to an extent. Yet, I can’t fathom the books lacking such shocking moments, and I don’t want it to be any other way. So go on, George, keep doing what you do best!
”…when my characters are in danger, I want you to be afraid to turn the page, (so) you need to show right from the beginning that you’re playing for keeps.”
A Game of Thrones has been criticized for its gradual momentum, and a lack of action, considering its immense bulk. Some might say this view is warranted. After all, there is only one major battle scene, which doesn't take place until the last couple hundred pages. However, I think it’s important to recognize that the author’s setting the stage for what’s to follow. And unless you prefer cardboard flat characters, it’s essential that we become acclimated to his brilliantly rendered characters. No one’s wholly good or evil. The protagonists and antagonists aren’t defined. Hence, I take pleasure in rooting for them all. Except for those that I truly despise..
Immediately after embarking on this re-read, it was like I’d returned after many years of exile, while at the same time feeling as though I’d never left. Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms felt very much like home to me. Indeed, I am home!
”When you play the game of thrones, either you win or die.”
As monumental as A Game of Thrones was, George R.R. Martin easily surpasses all our expectations...then takes things a bit further.
Fairly heavily fo As monumental as A Game of Thrones was, George R.R. Martin easily surpasses all our expectations...then takes things a bit further.
Fairly heavily forshadowed in the the first book, the enigmatic "blood-red" comet takes center stage here, and would seem to be a driving force throughout the series. 'But what does it really mean?' I often asked myself as I progressed further and further. Some theorize that it signified Daenerys Targaryen's reign, and the re-birth of ancient magic; while others thought it indicative of seemingly everything else. However varied these theories are, they all share one thing in common: an excellent source of motivation for virtually every character. That's right, a literary tool used to propel the story forward. Martin utilizes this technique incredibly well, too, it's almost seamless, really. This precision derives from the author's intimate knowledge of each and every character. He knows their deepest fears, ambitions, faults, and secrets. Nothing is contrived. In complete earnestness, I cannot take credit for the insights regarding the celestial phenomena acting as a literary tool. I believe in giving credit where it's due, and this is all courtesy of a great GR friend and fellow A Song of Ice and Fire fanatic, Stepheny Fowler. I'd like thank you for enlightening me, once again, as we continually discuss these brilliant books!
Along with this knowledge comes a history lesson, so to speak (of which there are many,) of the numerous Houses. What began (in A Game of Thrones,) as an interesting foray into the past has taken on a fascinating life of its own. It's almost as if the historical aspects are characters themselves.
Alas, I digress.. Unfamiliar faces emerge, interesting alliances are formed, nothing is set in stone. Alongside all this, Martin consistently develops such themes as political intrigue, which made the first installment so fun to read. Most prevalent of all, however, is the novel's increasing complexity (even more so the second time around,) intense war scenes, and utter insanity.
One of the newly emerging faces belongs to Davos Seaworth. First seen in the Prologue, I liked him almost immediately, and feel for him very much. He's easily one of my favorite contenders for the Iron Throne.
Although he's in the first book, Theon Greyjoy's character is given several POV's, resulting in a deep understanding of who he is, on a very personal level. I don't like him at all. In fact, I loathe him!! Speaking of which, I'd like to discuss the whole (view spoiler)[Theon/Reek dual identity. But first, I feel it's important to mention that during this reading, someone had inconsiderately spoiled his identity in the fifth book, A Dance With Dragons, which upset me very much. But that's beside the point. The point is, there's a certain character in A Clash of Kings known as "Reek," but he shares more than one scene with Theon, so now I'm not so sure that it was a spoiler after all. Actually, towards the end of the book, shortly after taking Winterfell and convincing the Starks and everyone else that he'd killed Bran and Rickon, Reek took charge of the situation, defending Winterfell against Theon and his men. (hide spoiler)]
I hate Theon!!!!
Jaime Lannister's candidness really surprised me, as he blatantly admitted to (view spoiler)[shoving Bran from the tower and then proceeding to shrug it off nonchalantly, showing no remorse whatsoever. He also admitted to having an incestuous relationship with Cersei. (hide spoiler)] This scene will probably always be one of the most memorable and touching of mine.
"A truly epic fantasy set in a world bedecked with 8,000 years of history, beset by an imminent winter that will last tend years and bedazzled by swords and spells wielded to devastating effect... here he provides a banquet for fantasy lovers with large appetites."
More than 12 hours later, and I am still stunned!!! Just what the hell just happened? Did I REALLY just read that!?! Needless to say, my mind's still More than 12 hours later, and I am still stunned!!! Just what the hell just happened? Did I REALLY just read that!?! Needless to say, my mind's still reeling, and I plan on posting a review soon. For the time being, I'm giving Dragons 4.5 solid stars.....more