Friday, January 27, 2012

End-of-week update

These Seven Sicknesses, a.k.a. the Sophocles marathon at the Flea, was highly worthwhile: the treatment of the Oedipus plays seems a bit unstable on the farce-tragedy axis (and I thought the actor playing Oedipus was perhaps the weakest in the show, or at any rate his performance was too campy to be at all moving), but the middle segment of Philoctetes-Ajax is excellent (the Ajax staging is just superb, particularly the handling of the sheep scene) and the concluding pair of Electra-Antigone works very well also.

I finished reading A Dance with Dragons and all I can say is that I really do not see that George R. R. Martin will be able to wrap up the rest of the story in only one more volume, however long!  He is temperamentally averse to leaving anything out, and it leads to some frustrating choices in volumes four and five; my heart sank when I realized that the last volume was literally going to go back to the temporal starting point of the previous one and cover exactly the same time period, not to show a markedly divergent view but just to fill out some things that didn't fit in.  You then see a character you care about, who grew and changed over the previous installment, back in his pre-change version, and for no good reason; this strikes me as a fundamental breach of the compact with the reader, just as I dislike the playing-fast-and-loose-with-alternate-timestream thing that a certain television series I love has been indulging in: the sense of reality you have in television drama is thin enough that you cannot afford to erode it too far by, say, bringing back to life a character you have killed off in the alternate timestream by letting the space-time continuum shift and reconfigure everything. . . .

(You can get the first four installments of George R. R. Martin in a box or a bundle, but really what I recommend instead is Wolf Hall on the one end or Garth Nix's brilliant Abhorsen trilogy on the other.)

The due date is rapidly approaching for my ratings on second-round reading for the New York Public Library Young Lions Prize, so I won't be writing much here about what I'm reading over next few weeks (confidentiality!), and I'm also teaching Clarissa again this semester, which eats up quite a bit of reading time.  However there is always room for a little light reading round the edges...

Miscellaneous links:

Neil Gaiman on growing up reading C. S. Lewis, Tolkien and Chesterton.

And I'm giving a talk today at 4pm at the CUNY Graduate Center; I am just hoping it will stop raining to the extent that people will actually be willing to leave their dwellings and venture out into the world to come to it!


  1. I'm nearly done with A Feast for Crows and still enjoying Martin despite the fact that it all could be tightened up quite a bit. I had actually managed to forget that the next book just revisits the time period of this one, which, I agree, feels like a violation of some fundamental agreement. Alas, I'll read it regardless. (Oh, and I don't think he's planning to wrap them up in one--I think there are two more still to go.)

    So you're saying I should read the Garth Nix series? My reading of Martin is, after all, just an attempt to find something akin to Dorothy Dunnett, whom I dove into in an attempt to find something akin to Wolf Hall. (Can't wait for the next Mantel!)

  2. Bringing the beginning of the new book up to the end of the last one also would have eliminated some of the excruciating travel time that comes from having such an enormous world. You could see, from the end of the third book, that an encounter was being prepared between the two most interesting characters in the series, but Martin needed another two-thousand pages to get them in proximity - and again the payoff was postponed!

  3. Thanks for saying what needed to be said, re: Martin.

    I look forward to more reviews and plain old book talk, here.