April 30, 2017

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, April 2017

Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.

Jean d'Ormesson, The Glory of the Empire: A Novel, a History (translated by Barbara Bray)
This must be one of the strangest and most brilliant of alternate histories, covering thousands of years in the life of "The Empire", its people and its rulers. I can only try to convey its effect by means of a figure. Imagine the real histories of ancient Greece, Rome, Byzantium, the Sassanians, and many other countries depicted on intricately-decorated ceramic pots and vessels. Now imagine that d'Ormesson took all those vessels to the top of a cliff, and, with great ceremony, dropped them to shatter on the rocks below. Then imagine that he assembled some of the shards into one new vessel, guided by a rather romantic taste. The result is simultaneously a parody of historiography (the narrator-historian obviously is very romantic and sentimental, while insisting on his objectivity), a monument to the author's eccentric erudition (I am sure I missed many references), and an astonishing work of fiction.
Ruthanna Emrys, Winter Tide
Lovecraftian-revisionist mind candy / historical fiction for the US in the 1940s. I am on record intensely admiring Emrys's short story "The Litany of Earth", to which this novel is a sequel. (The story is included in the book as an appendix.) Perhaps inevitably, the longer novel does not pack the same force. Reading it left me with a slight feeling of disappointment --- it's a bit too meandering, and it came across as a bit more presentist in its concerns (whereas "Litany" seemed more-of-its-setting). But, as mind candy, it's still really good, and I will happily pick up any sequel.
Disclaimer: I've corresponded very slightly with Emrys, about matters touching on our day jobs.

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur; Scientifiction and Fantastica; Tales of Our Ancestors; Writing for Antiquity; Cthulhiana

Posted at April 30, 2017 23:59 | permanent link

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