greygirlbeast (greygirlbeast) wrote,

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Number Two

There's not much of interest to be said about yesterday. But now, after a few tweaks here and there, Sirenia Digest #2 is ready to go out later today. Tonight at the latest. I apologize again for the delay. Also, please take note of yesterday's poll, which seems somehow to have slipped between the cracks.

Another good comment yesterday from sovay, regarding my preference, in my fiction, for allowing the inexplicable to remain that way:

Do you think this is a technique you could (or would want to) sustain at novel-length? Silk was almost like that, I think; the supernatural finally comes out of the woodwork in the last few chapters, but up until then it's all maybe-dreams and maybe-hallucinations and scraps of unsettling coincidence and parallels. I will now stop myself before I begin an essay-length analysis of the (maybe-)supernatural in the fiction of Caitlín R. Kiernan.

I think it's interesting that in my novel-length work there's been a general trend, post-Silk, towards making the "supernatural" more and more overt. Perhaps no less inexplicable, perhaps, but clearly more overt and undeniably real. So far as I'm concerned, Murder of Angels and Daughter of Hounds are both fantasy novels, pure and simple. By the second half of MoA there can be little doubt that the fantastic elements — the world that Niki is led to from this world — is real, in whatever sense you choose to believe that anything is real. There are days when I wish that it were going another way, that I was, instead, writing quieter, less certain novels. Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has often served as a model to me for how dark fantasy should be written. We do not know what walks in Hill House. We don't know why. We don't know if there are ghosts in any objective or traditional sense (disembodied spirits of the dead). We can be fairly certain that Hill House is a "bad" place and that Eleanore is neither sane nor quite...what word would suffice? She isn't quite like everyone else. But Jackson does a brilliant job of leaving us to wonder, and the wonder allows the fearsome nature of Hill House to grow in our own minds. Hill House knows how to frighten people, how to get under their skin. And so it's only appropriate that the novel works as an avatar for the house. We can't explain. We can only marvel at its wrongness and be afraid. We can only wish that Eleanore might have escaped, or never gone to Hill House in the first place, or that she has at last found peace there. And this is how I would write all my novels if I only knew how. Yes, I think I did come the closest in Silk. And it's one reason a lot of people didn't like the book. The inexplicable remains inexplicable.

While I'm on the subject of the appropriateness (or lack thereof) of exposition in fantasy, I'll mention that Spooky and I finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last night. Late last night. Early this morning. And since we spent many nights with this book, and since I'm groggy from not getting to sleep until after four so that we could finish, I'll speak of it honestly. Overall, I did like the book a great deal. I didn't love it the way that I loved the first book. Towards the end, I actually found myself longing for the innocence of the first novel. But it would be entirely wrongheaded of me to judge the book based on that reaction. Rowling is to be commended for allowing the stories to grow darker and more serious and more adult. That said, there are some not insignificant problems towards the end. Lord Voldemort's great mustache-twirling monologue, which goes on for five full pages, I believe, had me rolling my eyes and just wanting something, almost anything, to actually happen. Voldemort's account of how he's returned might easily have been pared down to a page or two at the most. We do not need a blow-by-blow account of the dark lord's devious shenanigans, and the end effect was unintentionally comical. The scene is handled better in the film. Worse yet, while we're still reeling from the overdose of exposition delivered by Voldemort, we're almost immediately subjected to another round of it from Barty Crouch, once it's revealed that he's assumed the identity of Mad-Eye Moody and Dumbledore has given him Snape's truth potion. Whereas the Voldemort 's speechifying made me laugh, Crouch only made me groan and wish for it to end. Again, the film handled this bit better, and Rowling could have kept the exposition much, much shorter here. I can imagine a lot of bored readers skimming over these bits, especially younger readers, but I don't skim. In short, never have I seen a good novel come so close to wrecking everything at the end through sheer force of exposition. Fortunately, it recovers admirably in the last couple of chapters and left me eager to know what happens next. I shall pretend, until I learn otherwise, that Rowling was persuaded, against her better judgement, to stick in all that wearisome explanation by some second-guessing editor who has since been sacked for forcing the novel to go on quite a bit longer than it needed to. Less is more, people. Less is almost always more.

Okay. That's enough for now. I must go forth and be vague.
Tags: harry potter, shirley jackson, writing

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