Monday, 28 March 2011

The Wise Man's Fear

I was sad when I finally finished Patrick Rothfuss' new book on Saturday afternoon, despite the fact that 1) it made me late for work twice last week, 2) the weight of it has probably given me a permanent injury, and to top it all off 3) I am now also suffering from a serious case of 'Great Fantasy Book withdrawl'. Fie!

Injuries aside...what a great read! Getting back to Kvothe the flame-haired (sounds better than 'ginger' doesn't it?) renaissance man posing as an inkeeper, Bast his shifty 'assistant' (read 'powerful but slightly unwise god-like being also undercover, sort of), and Storyteller, in a room, the one telling the others the next installment of his life story, was just SUCH a treat. I am a total sucker for libraries, and machines, and music, and fighting. And that is basically all Kvothe does. Shiver with glee.

When I read the first book The Name of the Wind (recommended to me last year by a marvelous stranger who I will thank forever) I was struck by how well the simplicity of the structure worked. I've read so many books, and enjoyed so many intricate and clever structures - how can I be satisfied with such a simple framing device for such a big story? I was thinking recently that it's not complexity that grabs your imagination and tickles it and won't let it go, but space. Walking out on stage, pitching a book to a buyer (I work in publishing) or telling someone what I did at the weekend, it's allowing the OTHER person's imagination to supply the story, at moments chosen well and committed to wholeheartedly, that the whole thing comes off convincingly.

The Wise Man's Fear took me just under a week, was almost half a million words long, and I loved every minute of it. When do we get the next one!?

Friday, 25 March 2011

Netsuke and New (to me!) Manga

After feasting on literary delights as rich and elegant as Edmund de Waal's The Hare With Amber Eyes, wonderful though it undoubtedly was, I need to pause and...well, digest. Any book about netsuke is always going to put me in mind of other Things Japanese. Here is my favourite netsuke at the V&A (a monk carrying his familiars around inside peaches):

Then there's Sam's and my new Manga addiction. I say new not because we're new to liking Manga, but that we're new to actually BUYING lots of it. 'It's ok', we say to each other now, 'we're supporting our local bookshop'. Well, we are! There are few causes more deserving than the Big Green Bookshop, as many, including the redoubtable Scott Pack (who likes cake almost as much as I do as well as being rather brilliant) who held a 'tweet-up' there this week, will testify...although should we really be having this much fun doing something heroic?

Latest and best so far for me is probably Kou Yaginuma's Twin Spica - the enchanting story of Asumi Kamogawa and her adventures at Space School. Mini amaretti biscuits, both of them:

But then altogether darker, beautifully illustrated, thinner, but just as addictive, is Tsutomu Nihei's Biomega. The first three volumes have me completely hooked into a dark, scratchy, vast future cityscape peopled with  huge motorbikes, half-human heroes and a gun-toting bear. Akira on crack. Brilliant. Green and Black's Dark Chocolate covered shortbread. Almost too much!

Books and Biscuits

My two favourite things in the world are Books and Biscuits.If a book reminds me of a biscuit I've loved, or a biscuit reminds me of a book I loved, I think ''why not say so"?

So, a hypothetical one to start with. I've never actually associated Moby Dick with a biscuit before...but if I did, would probably be a Fox's Classic. Silly though the analogy may seem, it follows certain simple criteria. Both rich and delicious on the outside, both 'classics' (of course), both probably enjoyed just slightly too long ago to actually remember them with any clarity; with a centre that is just a little bit difficult to get through...ok I'll stop there.  There is, of course, NOTHING sweet about Moby Dick, and the centre is hard to get through because it describes such paroxysms of boredom, rather than because it's sickly. Followed through to its logical conclusion, this would be unbelievably silly. In fact, it IS unbelievably silly. But no system is perfect. For me, though, the idea of being duty bound to treat myself to the one or the other a bit more often than I perhaps otherwise would, it simply too delicious to resist!

Mad March Hares

Hurray! Crick! Crack! I have completed the first step on my voyage of Performance Storytelling discovery! My mission: to see as much storytelling as I can in the next three months - ha. So, off I went to an evening at Rich Mix to  see and hear Hugh Lupton, Jan Blake and Tim Ralphs do their stuff. Two days later, I still can't get the image out of my head of a cow removing her (human) daughter's face by licking it...yuck! Or anansi sitting on a cart singing the oddest girls' name in the world to a ragga tune...OR a giantess climbing into a small sack...OR a billy goat's innocent stare at an evil and clearly smelly troll...I could go on.

All three storytellers were in tip top form in my humble opinion. They became all of their characters with  amazing agility which I have the hugest respect for -  as my rather shaky performances as a clown and at the end of the Pleasance Drama course I just finished will testify, I have trouble enough just dealing with one at the moment! But o, what better motivation to learn a craft than seeing the masters at work!?