"The book I'm looking for,' says the blurred figure, who holds out a volume similar to yours, 'is the one that gives the sense of the world after the end of the world, the sense that the world is the end of everything that there is in the world, that the only thing there is in the world is the end of the world."
- Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Quitting a Job and Getting Back to Work

I gave notice at one of my jobs. Don't worry--I've still got two (!?) others. But now I'll have weekends off again, which means I'll have time for what's really important: making friends and living a rich, full life reading and 'riting. I already know what book I'm going to read next, and I think I'll have a long post afterwards. So. Look out for that!

But until then, and despite my busy schedule, I've done a tiny bit of reading here and there. Let me catch you up.

The Trouble with Poetry by Billy Collins

After a minor personal disaster a few weeks ago, I called in sick on a Monday. I went on a hike, commiserated with a friendly bartender over gin and tonics, wandered around a Home Depot, and eventually found my way to the poetry section of a Border's Books. The store was big and mostly empty. Even the shelves were weirdly bare. After flipping bored-ly through Neruda and Cummings, I picked up a slim book because it had a neat picture of a black bear on it, and then I sat in a chair and I read the whole thing.

I like poetry. I like it a lot, actually. But I came to the game late. That is, I have about a decade of serious prose reading under my belt now, but it wasn't until I was a junior in college that I realized that poetry was actually pretty OK, too. As a result, I don't really have the terminology to talk about poetry. The jargon, or whatever. ("Oh yes, the sonic qualities of stanza two! How evocative!") But Billy Collins is fun. He's funny sometimes, too. Which is nice. He just has a really accessible voice, and writes poems I really like? Read some of his stuff! This book was very good.

Also, afterward I wrote a Billy Collins-ish poem of my own. (You can laugh. It's supposed to be kind of funny!)

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

I didn't finish this one.

This is the second book in a Fantasy Trilogy called The Kingkiller Trilogy. These books are a big deal in the Fantasy world. People like them a lot. The books are about Kvothe, who is a really cool guy. That's basically it, actually. He's a guy who is just really cool, and he is now tending bar at a tavern and telling the story of his cool life.

I read the first book, called The Name of the Wind, last year. I enjoyed it! I mean, sure, the characters were terrible and silly and the world wasn't super compelling. But the pacing was just incredible. That man knows how to get you from one scene to the next, knows how to make the stakes seem realistic and interesting, and knows how to make the book feel... meaty, despite it's speed.

But this time I was skipping pages. One of the two big problems with High Fantasy novels (more on other one in a second) is that they tend to be bloated and sluggish. They get too caught up in the details of their made-up world, or something. Anyway, they just tend to be big, fat, slow awful things.

And the other reason they are lame is best exemplified by The Wise Man's Fear. Kvothe is ridiculous. He is too cool. He is cool to the point that I felt embarrassed for the author. He's just... literally the best at everything there is. The best swordsman, the best magician, the smartest student, the hardest worker, the best actor, the best singer, the best bartender. These are all actual things that he is the best at. What? Okay, okay. How about this: He has sex for the first time ever with a supernatural sex demon. He is so good at having sex that instead of killing him (which is what usually happens?) the sex demon is compelled to send him out into the world to tell everyone how good he is at having sex. Yes. Really.

That's your character Patrick Rothfuss! Ooops!

 Sorry, nerds!

See you soon, everybody!


  1. Kvothe IS James Franco! I've been reading the same story in the tabloids for weeks!

  2. yeah, i'm stuck in the mercenary part.....seriously, the best at sex? all of it sounds like a nerd's wet dream of how they want to be. I'll finish it, but it better have something happen that's believable.

  3. Kvothe sounds like what we in the fanfic world call a Gary Stu. Gary is evil and should be purged with fire.

  4. Brett: I would totally read a book about James Franco battling forces of supernatural evil in a fantasy world.

    Marina: Right? Doesn't it just kind of feel like Patrick was just... writing about the cool life he wishes he had? Embarrassing! And gross!

    Meghan: Kvothe is Gary Stu up and down, girl. He's the worst!

  5. In some ways the book gets even worse after the sex demon part. The next place he travels to is a society of sex-crazed ninjas who developed the most effective fighting techniques in the world but somehow never managed to figure out that sex gets people pregnant. I started to wonder if Rothfuss typed those parts of the book using only one hand.

    I kept reading though, because I was intrigued by the idea of a person who became a hero by *pretending* to be a hero, and because the idea behind the Cthaeh was enough to make me want to read on.

    That, and I'm holding on to the hope that Kvothe is an *extremely* unreliable narrator. There are some hints that point towards that, after all.