polutrope: (Default)
I actually just finished a book that I loved unreservedly! or well, I think I had some reserves, but I forget what they were, so that's close enough. The book was Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale, which is about - well, it's about New York, and love, and magic, and winter. I can't summarize, and I'm not even going to try. My point is, everyone should go read it. Also A Kingdom Far and Clear, which is a "kid's book" but whatever, it's gorgeous in prose and presentation.
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So this is a total love post. There are not all that many things that can make me turn off the analytic part of my mind. Steven Brust is one of them.

I first read The Phoenix Guards a while ago. Not ten years, for sure, but close. Since then I've read it multiple times; let's call it five. It was the first of his books I read, which, if you, the putative and likely non-extant reader know anything about his world, is a bad plan. If you don't, his world is populated mainly by "elves," who live thousands of years and look down on "humans." I was very confused when his main character was said to be "barely a hundred," to say the least. But even unaware of his world, the book drew me in and made me seek out the rest.

So. Things he does well: Female characters, oh my god. And not just main characters - yeah, Tazendra's awesome, but if you've got one female character in a world that supposedly has gender equality, it doesn't mean much. But there's multiple supporting characters, a mixture of evil and non-evil. Tazendra herself sleeps around and doesn't get shamed for it, has an attitude of unmitigated braggadocio, and just generally kicks ass. Jenicor e'Terics is concerned with her appearance - and a fine blade, which rarely happens. Seodra and Lytra are terrible scheming people in a way that has nothing to do with their gender.

He builds a history for his world without doing infodumps. My favorite historical character is the Empress Undauntra I, who is snarky and smart. Further, there are references to works of art and legendary figures; his world feels real, like there are people and a history in it who aren't directly connected to our main characters.

He has a bad king who is a good person. Well, for the most part. Poor Tortaalik is really just trying to do his best, at least in Phoenix Guards. He's sort of more of a disaster in Five Hundred Years After. But he really is trying to be a good king, but doesn't know how - which is unusual in a genre dominated by wonderful or awful rulers.

Also I love his style. It's been said that people talk too much, but I really like it when people talk, so I'm hardly an impartial judge.

(Also I read Iorich over the weekend as well and it was AWESOME. While I'm sure Vlad wandering around the east finding out about his history is wonderful, we need to get back to the heart of the series - Aliera being cooler than you.

OH GOD what does it say about me that my favorites are Orca, the banking drama, and Iorich, the courtroom drama?)

(Also also I have determined that I probably belong in either the House of the Tiassa or the Lyorn. Although I am a bit of a Dzur when I play rugby.)
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God I seriously wish that like, anyone else had heard of K. J. Parker ([livejournal.com profile] dolique, you don't count) because I really think he's my favorite fantasy author for several reasons. (I. research [he makes siege weapons! he can fence! he's a God-damned blacksmith! II. interesting characters. III. Decent prose, because really too few people have it.) Devices and Desires, which I just finished reading, is amazing. Valens and Veatriz are pretty much the only couple I really care about in anything - they write letters to each other, and all of them made me tear up a little bit.

and throughout the whole thing there's impending doom for like everyone (I am taking bets for who dies) and all I really want is the impossible - for Valens and Veatriz to go off somewhere and be happy but seriously because of who wrote it (Mr Parker is not so much with the happy endings, or even happy middles) and because of 600 pages of plot development it's really not going to happen.

All I want is someone to talk about this with, besides the ether of the internet.
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I totally love this production of Serse. I'm not even kidding, and it's only partly for the WTF effect. (Which, it must be said, is very strong. As in, WTF is going on in "Io le diro"? A carrying chair, awesome long coats... no idea. Ditto for "Si, la voglio" - Sword fighting, with a guy in an awesome coat? Girls in sequined hats laughing at this? We're in some odd dictatorship? Indoor tree in "Ombra mai fu"? What?)

In any case, I do like it. It's odd, but it has an aesthetic of its own - it's not just throwing random elements together, and there's a nice stylization of sorts. It's also helpful that the singing is very strong.

(also everyone has awesome coats.)

(what, I like coats, OK?)
polutrope: (the lady of shallot)
Hugo von Hofmannsthal is amazing. Not necessarily for the conclusions of his stories: sometimes they let you down, but only because the atmosphere that he builds up leads you to expect something great. And even when the climax is unsatisfying, there is something worthwhile in all of them.

My favorite first sentence, for example: "The sparrow hawk which the boys had nailed to the barn door was twisting horribly toward the the oncoming night." Or the last sentence of a fragmentary story: "And I touched the hand of the woman who was no longer my lover to wake her up and take her down to the dead woman who lay downstairs, her pale face heavy with beauty and mystery."

I end this with a quotation from "The Lord Chandos Letter":

It is that the language in which I might have been granted the oppurtunity not only to write but also to think is not Latin, or English, or Italian, or Spanish, but a language of which I know not one word, a language in which mute things speak to me and in which I will perhaps have something to say for myself someday when I am dead and standing before an unknown judge."


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