Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Signing

So I meet Brandon Sanderson and Harriet McDougal Friday night (which isn't very hard to do). A few things struck as soon as I arrived: Sanderson is only five years older than I, fully two thirds, if not more, of the two-hundred plus people there were women, and that attending this signing was probably something akin to going to Dragon Con.

Sanderson is a very genuine guy: nice and very approachable. I was inclined to like him through past email exchanges. Mrs. McDougal, Robert Jordan's widow, is a true southerner so I liked her right away, not to mention that she is an all around charming lady. I didn't get called on during the Q & A but after chatting with a new friend Mick for two hours and waiting to get in the end of the line I was able to speak to both, albeit it was still rather brief.

I asked my standard question to fantasy writers about sequels and books in a series and got some standard answers. I could tell they both wanted to speak at length but unfortunately for me they had other obligations. There were a few late attendees who needed books signed, pictures taken and babies autographed so nothing in depth was truly shared.

As much as I like Sanderson, I'm not gonna pick up the wheel of time again due to his involvement. I put that series down for a good reason. As goofy (in a good way) as he is, his autograph is stranger still. I can almost read it… kinda. But I'm not sure I could convince anyone that he actually signed my book.

It was fun. Reading is so solitary its always nice to see people come together--offline-- with the expressed intent of talking about books.

If you plan to go to the signing and you don't mind missing the Q & A and the reading, both of which were Wheel of Time related, then I'd say go about two and half to three hours late. He'll be finishing up and have time to talk.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What comes next.

I started reading Roots by Alex Haley and through about two-hundred pages I can't recall being spoon feed a story in greater detail by any other author. To me the writing is dead on the page, quiet literally it is all telling and no showing: turn your brain off and accept what is given; no reader imagination required.

It seemed odd to me because the beginning ( I'm not sure if was exposition yet ) contained so many foreign elements that I read it all as a missed opportunity. Perhaps it's my love of world-building in fantasy novels, but everything that should have been new and exciting came across as boring and inconsequential. An amazing culture that is so rarely dealt with was being glossed over in a laughable manner.

Everyone knows this book, whether or not we have read it. Everyone knows who Kunta Kinte is and what this story is about. The most compelling part for me--the part I was looking for--and what saw me through the boring beginning (I'm not gonna pull punches anymore) was, wondering when will the abduction come that will mark the true beginning of Kunta's life? Every time he left the village, I felt the possibility, and I was always looking out for him as a reader. It was a weird sort of engagement because the writing had no affect of me, but knowing what was coming, and having it constantly put off until later, heightened my anticipation to the point that I was crying out for xanax.

It reminded me of some of the prominent passages in Toni Morrison's Beloved which I recently finished. She has many an odd story telling mechanics, but the one that struck me the most is her presentation of a climax to the reader without any foreplay. She is far from the first to employ such a tactic, but it is one that I feel continually fails except in Morrison's case; odder still both parties bought into the philosophy. We, the reader, knows something important has happened, but we don't know why it should affect us or the characters the way it does. I'd call it a literary wet dream, where you wake up with evidence of certain events, but still wonder, "What happened?"

It is a difficult thing to know a particular event before it's significance is explained.

Just so there is no confusion, their are precious few similarities between Beloved and Roots. I didn't particularly care for the former, but it is amazing and brilliantly done, the later...

It's hard to speak words of praise to Haley considering the blatant plagiarism, forgery, and complete fabrication of the story that he sold to the world as genealogical history. It is harder still to praise his 'ability' as a writer; as I said earlier, I was never engaged by his combination of words to elicit a specific feeling from the reader, rather the occurrence of something expected kept me going. That said, all of these mitigating circumstances--and complete lack of anything of interest happening--that lead up to chapter thirty-four combined for what was without doubt the most intense reading experience of my life. In no way am I a fan of horror fiction, but I can think of nothing scarier and begrudgingly I can stay that events of that chapter were significantly heightened by all that preceded it.

The night I read that passage, I still could have used some xanax, but to calm down after reading the events that I already knew were going to take place. It is not rare for me to stay up till two in the morning reading, but it's never happened before that I stay away till two in the morning, scared out of my mind concerning what I've just read.