Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A Mess, a Gem, and Comfort Books


All right, I know I am arriving years late at the party, but I have to vent. At the recommendation of fellow writers on Verla Kaye's Blue Board, I recently started George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy Song of Ice and Fire series. First three books were ripping yarns,not the best fantasy I've ever read, but really good. Then comes the fourth, A Feast for Crows. Fool that I am, because this was a pretty old series (FFC was published in 2005) and that it had been highly recommended on the blue board, I thought it was finished. Bwahahahahaha!

First of all, A Feast for Crows is nearly unreadable. Unlike the first three, I kept putting it down, even reading whole other books, and then coming back to it. It literally meanders on and on (i.e., the characters are all on walkabouts), abandoning all my favorite characters (Danerys the dragon queen, Tyrion the dwarf, Bran the mystic wolf clan survivor and his bastard half-brother Jon Snow) to poke along with the least likeable and interesting characters for 500 f-ing pages. I'm thinking, how the devil is he going to wrap this up in the remaining...I check again the monstrous page count and see I only have about 200 pages of actual text left. Then we have the 100 pages or so of appendices listing everyone ever mentioned and their affiliations, and I'm so bloody bored, I even flip through some of this for a bit, and then to my horror, I find the fatal final few pages. A freaking preview of book five!

Furious, I race to Amazon to find that even though the novel I'm reading was published in 2005, book five isn't due out until this September. FOUR YEARS. To wait for the conclusion of a series that has pooled into a slab of melted butter. And then I discovered the voluminous threads of fury on Amazon. I am so mad. I slam the book shut. I will return it uncompleted to the library (thank GOD I didn't buy it). The speculation is that GRRM is a) senile, b) arrogant, c) undisciplined, d) suffers from Robert Jordanitis (named for the fantasy novelist who died 12 books into his series that showed no signs of wrapping up even after 12,000 pages); or e) (my choice) all of the above.

And you know what's the real pisser? It doesn't matter. The forthcoming Dance with Dragons is already, six months out, ranked at 1300 on Amazon, which I can tell you means best-seller. So it doesn't MATTER whether he finishes this stupid series in five books or 20. It doesn't MATTER whether he's so arrogant and self-indulgent that he just goes on auto-pilot and pours out stupid drivel. He will still sell books and can be as complacent and undisciplined as he likes and smile all the way to the bank.

Okay, I'm taking a deep breath. I'm letting it go. I am turning to the light.

To get over the above, I picked up Neil Gaiman's Coraline last night and read it in a couple of hours. A jewel. Finely written, beautifully conceived and admirably executed. Thanks, Neil.

And the books I turned to while trying to struggle through A Feast for Crows? I returned to Jalna, the Canadian estate conceived by Mazo de la Roche in the 1940s, about a vivid, eccentric family and their ups and downs. Such comfort food. I still love them and I must have read them every one five times when I was a teenager and in my 20s. I haven't read them in decades but they hold up for me.

5. Coraline, Neil Gaiman
4-4.5 A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows, George RR Martin
2-3. A Game of Thrones, and A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin, epic fantasy.
1. Jennie, The Romantic Years, the first volume of an old biography of Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill's mother, an American.

Re-read.
8-10 Building of Jalna, Morning at Jalna, Mary Wakefield, Mazo de la Roche
1-7 Harry Potter, 1 through 7. Amazing how little I remembered of Deathly Hallows.

2 comments:

Mary Witzl said...

(Oh please let no one ever think this about anything of mine that manages to see the light of day! I'm definitely going to pare down that last meandering chapter of my WIP after reading this!)

I've just finished a book that I had to grit my teeth through, and it had rave reviews on the covers. I used to read like I eat: If I started it, I'll damn well finish it too. But ever since my to-read list grew a mile long, I've given up this practice. Life's just too short, and there are far too many books out there I want to read.

My comfort reading is Robert B Parker. I've got a whole shelf of his detective books that I reread every five years...

Writerperson said...

I know what you mean re: looking at your own works with a different eye after daring to criticize another author's work. I always think that (if I'm lucky) the trashed author will find my books and rip them to shreds.

And I also used to finish what I started. No longer. I got the flinging it down and forgetting about it from my husband, who can literally get a few pages from the end and stop reading.