Monday, January 9, 2017

Not a Review of C.J. Cherryh's Angel With the Sword

I finally finished C. J. Cherryh's Angel With the Sword yesterday, barreling toward the end as various boats and bridges caught fire or were swamped beneath the prow of larger vessels. This is my first venture into the world of Merovingen and although it wasn't necessarily the right book at the right time for me, it did eventually pull me in and stay floating in my thoughts for several hours afterward. I wanted to know what happened next and I was curious enough about the world to go through the appendix material and various maps at the end. Altair Jones' constant consideration of her situation (which had led to a general recommendation to read the book at a writers' group) made her a character that you could still feel lurking, considering her next move, after the book was over. Although, truthfully, she wasn't much of a lurker in the book--that mental conversation doubled her character slightly, so she was both active and heroic and shadowy and reckless at the same time.

It also led to the question--what if I had discovered it at the right time? If I had read this around the time I read The Hobbit or The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper...if I had encountered Altair rather than Frodo. In the middle of making notes for a draft, the question of why fantasy and whither narrative strikes more forcefully than usual.

I think about coming to a book like Pilgrim's Progress and loving it for the cracked spine, the line drawings in the chapters, the feel of the dry pages against my skin, knowing I had to take care of the physical book itself as I read it. Later, coming to Tolkien's books and having to be judged old enough to read them with care. In my current household, the same consideration would go to my husband's comics, of which I am very careful without particularly loving. Care is its own kind of veneration, I suppose.

This leads to the question of what fantasy does, what kind of escape or care it provides to the vanished and the magical and the forgotten. Am I reaching backward toward something that feels lot, trying to gild something that was never worth it? Did I discover books in accord with a preservationist, nostalgic character or did I become so because these are the ideas that I encountered that swallowed all others?

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