Freedom & Necessity (Was RE: Susan Cooper)
emcmullin at kl.com
Wed Dec 8 19:01:25 EST 1999
Weirdly, I just finished re-perusing Freedom & Necessity on Monday.
And then Melissa mentioned it:
"On this subject....I had a long discussion on the Alexlit newsgroup
> Jessie Shelton, with whom I share a number of favorite books. The
> discussion hinged on the fact that she absolutely adored Steven Brust and
> Emma Bull's novel _Freedom & Necessity_ and I thought it was okay, but it
> didn't make the earth move for me."
Me too. I suppose I could save this for the Big Survey, but I
didn't dislike the book or love it, so it wouldn't really fit.
Now, it has been a while since I read Sorcery and Cecelia - and I
have recently discovered that in some kind of fit of total idiocy, I gave my
copy away somewhere, somehow - but I thought F&N owed some facets of its
underlying structure to that; epistolary, two couples, English setting by
Minneapolis Scribblies, albeit not riffing on the Regency genre (riffing on
a more Dickensian theme? dunno) - eh, maybe it's just superficial.
I tentatively concluded that Brust and Bull had written it in the
same way - by writing to each other in various personas -personae?- and
basically building the story by feeling their way into it. I concluded this
because there are some things in the narrative that were presented like
potential directions for the story, but didn't wind up being really built
Potential Freedom & Necessity Spoiler Warning!
For example, Richard and Kit's interests in various magical/occult
sorts of things, the merest hint only but a hint repeated throughout. The
letter found by Kit in the book at Melrose and the hint of backstory it
gives - apparent not edited out because of the signet found with it? The
lack of exposition on their parents' generation, which ended up being quite
relevant. How did the uncle/proprietor of Melrose die, exactly? And it
seemed odd that Kit forgot to worry about her mother until the end (not that
the main characters weren't all extremely busy - but she *did* end up
holding down the fort), or have any tale or knowledge to relate regarding
her stepfather and his character. And how was his character not common
knowledge among them?
Anyway, I did like it and thought there was much that was
interesting about it. I particularly liked the idea of incorporating social
issues, debate and competing world views into the fabric of the story - and
a story that would go into the secret clubs (has anyone read any non-fiction
on the Hellfire Club? Any suggestions?), and hinted at there being
something behind it that might even have been magic. I think I liked it
better the first time through though, when I was waiting to find out the
significance of the 1761 letter found in the library and various other
things. This time, as I was refreshing my memory, I'd come across something
like the letter and remember that it didn't ever get incorporated and it
reduced my enjoyment a bit. But I thought it was all in all a really
intriguing experiment if they did write it the way I imagine and I'd like to
see more along the same lines. With the Minneapolis winter being what it
is, maybe it's the most sensible way to pass the time!
Which reminds me. I just read Lady Susan by Jane Austen - an
epistolary novella I hadn't read before - that might be fun to read next to
F&N or Sorcery & Cecilia - note to Hallie! Also, Sean Russell writes things
not unlike F&N. I can't remember all the titles but I think a couple are
World Without End and Sea Without A Shore. Oh my, while I'm at it, I
recommend An Instance of The Fingerpost by Ian Pears (sp?) - for competing
world views and narratives - really good book and not without a certain
element of the Unknown.
Oh, I wound up writing an essay. Sheesh, on with the Survey and
P.S. What is Alexlit?
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