Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday Writes Way More Than She Reads

It's true. I'm a writer, and that takes up two or three hours of my day. I still read at least a book a month (usually two to five), but I read a lot less than I did back in high school when writing was something I just did for fun. I keep up with all of my favorite authors, and reread those books that really inspired me, but honestly, I've torn through a fair few books in my life (my goodreads suggests 1,166, specifically) and there aren't really any that I'm dying to read nowadays. It's basically just new releases in long-loved series and rereads for me, although I am going to be giving George R.R. Martin another shot since Game of Thrones on HBO looks right fantastic. If I can just push through his bulky prose, I'm sure I'll enjoy it highly.

Recommending books is not that easy, because I do not like books most people like (and even the ones I do I have a few problems with), and I certainly do not like YA. As an author, I am perhaps more inclined to think of books less in terms of "favorites" and more in terms of "inspiration", as well. As such, I will simply review two books that I consider to be the most influential to my own writing, and perhaps give you a little taste of what you might expect if you ever peak at my own works.

Iron Council, by China Miéville

Iron Council is the third book in Miéville's Bas-Lag series, and everyone seems to have their favorite. They stand alone, and each explores something different - though they all stay close to New Crobuzon, the big city of Bas-Lag - this one is my favorite, however, and I will admit a lot of that comes down to the fact that Judah, one of our protagonists, can make golems out of abstract concepts, like darkness and time. Awesome.

If I have any criticism of the novel, it is simply that I don't like stories that follow multiple POVs. The story follows three characters, Judah, Cutter, and Ori. The first two are deeply intertwined (indeed, those two characters have been 'intertwined' in the past, if you catch my drift), while the third reinforces the message of the other two, while serving to flesh out the narrative. It's a dark fantasy/steampunk story, about a train that travels freely, lifting up the tracks behind it and putting them in front to move forward and away from Crobuzon, until that time when they finally decide to fight.

Miéville will not appeal to everyone. It is dark fantasy beyond the term's common use. This is legitimately dark, not just gritty, and, at times, horrific. It's adult fantasy at its finest. The prose is very heavy, perhaps the only indication that he was influenced by the fantasy greats at all. It is beautiful, though. It doesn't waste time on "flowing raven locks shadowing her frame, flowing before her sapphire eyes" or any of that. If he's going to spend a paragraph describing something, it will likely be a creature with a mucus membrane on its face and fur in its unmentionables.

Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy

This book is not a fantasy of any sort, though what it lacks in that, it makes up for by being one of the darkest books I have ever read. At face value, this is a Western with some Biblican overtones. Nothing particularly unusual, particularly from this author. But it's grim. Gratuitous violence fills the pages, and for good reason. This book wants to break your spirit. It wants you to be as down as possible, and it is only through the allusions to Christ we find in our protagonist that we can hold any hope in our hearts. Prepare to have those hopes (and your heart along with it) crushed.

The kid and the judge are the focus of this story. The Kid is our protagonist. We follow him around, but it's hard to really say that this is his story. He's too young for the frontier. There is also the Judge, a ruthless man whose crimes cannot be described in a manner appropriate for this blog. The prose is perhaps as beautiful as Miéville's, but in a very different way. Where Miéville is extravagant and perhaps, at times, gratuitous (to great effect), McCarthy excels by using precise words and cutting language. This is a powerful book, it would appeal to fans of Herman Melville (of Moby Dick) and, to an extent, any fan of Westerns who can make it through some heavy prose.

To answer the other question posed, I suppose I have my fair share of 'procrastination' tucked away, but since I've left school, I haven't had much to procrastinate about. I certainly don't do this with my writing, not anymore. The only thing I can think of is scratching myself when I have dry skin (during the transition between months), since that just makes it worse. I don't care, I'm itchy, darn it.

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