Sunday, May 12, 2013

Catch Up: Reincarnation, Immaturity, and Cultural Studies

Once again, I'm dreadfully behind on blogging. Actually, I'm behind on everything (except for reading. Still knocking that out like a boss). You should see my apartment. It's covered in clothes and books and shoes and cat hair. It's getting ridiculous. So in order to have one area of my life where I am not behind or in chaos (although I also want to add a list component of all the books I've read to the side, and that's not happening tonight), I shall do a quick round-up of the last few weeks.

Three weeks ago was Katherine Kerr's Daggerspell. It was one of my fluffier choices, although the writing style was interesting, as was the transition between times. The story was one of reincarnation and rehabilitation, as the characters of one tragedy continue, after being reborn, to relive aspects of it until they manage to break their part of the cycle. The main character is the one man who rather than being reborn, is simply living (and remembering his role) until he makes up for his part in the original story. The writing reminded me a bit of The Name of the Wind, which led to some internal confusion as my brain kept trying to make connections that didn't exist. There was of course magic and fighting, including the one woman fighter saving the day, which I love. But since all but one character was rather fluid, it was hard to truly care what happened to any of them.

Two weeks ago was The Mystery of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon. Maybe it's because I was never a typical young person (I'm allowed to say that now since I'm old), I sympathized with the main character, who gets into a certain crowd because of a desire to be a part of the cool kids, to have that typical, almost Gatsby-esque party experience. But at the same time, the plot and the worries seemed a little too geared toward teenagers. Yes, no one knows who they are, yes, young people make stupid decisions. But an entire novel built around that was a bit much, particularly since he captured the annoyingness of young people a little too well. The plot also hinged on the relationship between the main character and his father, who was a leader in the mafia, and that relationship was never really fully explained. Instead, Chabon peppers the story with hints of why the father acts the way he does. But what is never explored, and what I think is more interesting, is why the father chose that life, what effect that had on his life beyond the death of his wife, and what made him push his son toward a different path. Actually, I wish the whole story had focused on the dad and son relationship, rather than the son playing with drugs and experimenting with various aspects of sexuality.

Last week was The Wise Man's Fear, the sequel to The Name of the Wind. In finishing it, I join the masses eagerly waiting for Patrick Rothfuss to publish the final part of the trilogy and find out what happens to Kvothe and Denna and all the rest. It continued and expanded its exploration of names, moving into how other cultures (all fictional, of course) use names and storytelling. Language is even more important in this one; there is one culture that views facial expressions and music as personally intimate, and so all emotions are expressed through hand gestures and all music should only be played for those with whom you are close. There is a discussion of predestination, as the narrative examines how a person's actions can be manipulated for evil purposes by one who sees all possible futures; the fairies, if someone interacts with this being, will instantly kill that person and anyone who interacts with him or her. That is how powerful being able to manipulate people through the truth (for the being only tells the truth) is. Given the number of themes, you'd think it'd seem disjointed, but Rothfuss does a masterful job of keeping the story moving. And it'd be a great series to write a paper on... You know, if Rothfuss gets around to finishing the whole thing.