Saturday 24 October 2009

An interlude which was neither all that I'd hoped for nor more

I'm enjoying Marguerite de Navarre's The Heptameron but I confess I needed a little break from all that courtly love; every story discusses the most beautiful and virtuous woman in the world, or the most gallant and honourable man in the world, but it's never the same man or the same woman. I know such excessive and straight-faced used of the superlatives is standard to the genre but it was wearing on me just a little bit, so I had to walk away and let everyone cool down, lest someone say or do something we'd all regret.

As a break, I wanted a good fantasy novel that might be geared more towards the YAs than the adults. I kind of wanted books I'd already read - like A Swiftly Tilting Planet or Gryphon's Eyrie - but I didn't want to reread. I wanted a book that would give me a reading experience like those books gave me back in the day (and in subsequent rereads). In quest of such a book I betook myself to the library and basically couldn't find anything that looked promising in the way I wanted, so I picked up the only non-Victorian-esque Philip Pullman book I haven't yet read - because what could be more reliable than a Philip Pullman book?

Oh right. If only I'd remembered that I didn't like that Victorian-esque book, The Ruby in the Smoke, so much, and actually, except for the His Dark Materials trilogy and Clockwork and I Was a Rat!, I generally haven't been so impressed. I've actually loved about half of what I've read of Pullman's stuff. The other half, meh. It's just hard to remember the "meh" moments when I remember His Dark Materials, which is just so bloody good!!!! It's hard to believe Pullman could write anything except pure awesomeness except that now that I think of it, he did write some pure not-awesomeness. Like those two mini-additions to His Dark Materials and The Ruby in the Smoke and Count Karlstein and The Firework-maker's Daughter. Sigh.

Sadly, The Scarecrow and His Servant is one of those efforts of Mr. P.'s which I must relegate to the not-awesome pile. It was okay. It had moments. But it didn't blow me away at all with its magic and mystery and imagination, and that's what I wanted. It was fast; took me about a total of 2.5 hours to read. And if I had sprogs of my own or little relatives to read to, I would likely include this one in Reading Time, if only because Pullman never freaks me out with his weird ideologies (even though there was some consumption of someone's head!! (which, to be fair, was made of turnip)) and his writing is always very good. But I would probably also secretly hope that it wouldn't be the book they wanted me to re-read to them every night for a year.

Anyway, you can be sure that I'll be reading The Book of Dust whenever it's released. But you can also be sure that I'm becoming increasingly skeptical about the consistency of our man's genius. Which makes me feel like I did when I found out Santa Claus wasn't real. I kind of knew because I'd begun to recognize my mother's handwriting on those gifties; but a little more genius-ish use of the smoke and mirrors could have delayed the trauma. So come on, Phil, pull out the smoke and mirrors one more time! Show us some more good Moses tricks!!! PLEASE.


Meytal Radzinski said...

I'm a fan of Pullman's "The Broken Bridge" as well. It's completely unexpected coming from the guy who wrote "His Dark Materials" ("The Golden Compass" remains one of my favorite book ever), but it's a nice little book about all this small drama. It just kind of comes out of the blue as a perfectly normal book.

celine said...

There's no Santa? Couldn't you have broken the news to me in a far less brutal manner?

raych said...

I've picked up Rat and put it down several times because I have The Apprehensions. I've only read the Dark Materials but I would like to have their children, and I'm afraid of EXACTLY THIS THING that you have here.

Heidenkind said...

I'm also not a big fan of Ruby in the Smoke. AT ALL. I have read the Golden Compass and that was pretty good. Haven't gotten to the rest of the series, though.

Jeanne said...

I agree with you about his other books. Worth reading once, but not necessarily ones I remember much about.

Bookphilia said...

An Anonymous Child: Curses, I haden't heard of The Broken Bridge when I proclaimed I'd read everything but those Victorian novels. I will check it out one of these days.

Celine: Oh sweetie, I'm sorry! Here's a cookie; it'll make you feel better. :(

raych: It's a legitimate fear. Try Clockwork if you're going to branch out with Pullman - it's very dark in all the right ways.

heidenkind: Oh dear, don't deprive yourself of the rest of the Dark Materials trilogy!

Jeanne: Exactly.