Best Books of 2004
klj at sccs.swarthmore.edu
Sat Jan 29 14:05:26 EST 2005
On Sat, 29 Jan 2005 minnow at belfry.org.uk wrote:
> Paul wrote:
> >Biggest Disappointment:
> >'Ash: A Secret History' by Mary Gentle
> >"The True State of Affairs" by Diana Wynne Jones
> >Like 'Ash', the story itself is great, but the frame let it down. I
> >ended up being incredibly frustrated because we never learn the story
> >of how the protagonist ended up in this place; I realise that it's
> >extraneous to the story actually being told, but if it's so extraneous
> >as all that, why make it part of the story at all?
> I too didn't think this was great, but then I don't think DWJ is at her
> best in the short-story field, and nor does she! apparently they are as
> much work as a full-length book but nothing like as much fun to do because
> there isn't room to expand on the bits the author herself finds interesting
> and unexpected.
> What I thought about this one was that it showed all the signs of having
> started out to be a book and then run out of puff. I got the same feeling
> about "Everard's Ride". Each of them feels like the first draft of a book
> that stopped working, taken out of the drawer at a later date because
> someone wanted a short story for some special purpose (as it might be a
> convention guest-of-honour spot), and tidied up so they could be used.
> That would be why they're incomplete: because they always were incomplete,
> and DWJ herself discovered that she didn't know what happened in the end
> and so never wrote it.
> Does that make sense?
I feel tempted to defend "The True State of Affairs" - I mostly find DWJ's
shorter works very disappointing, but this one (and "The Girl Who Loved
the Sun") really worked for me. I think in part with "The True State of
Affairs" it's the style, which seems very unlike her usual style but
equally lovable and interesting. And in part it's the thematic stuff -
the contrast between expectations/hope and reality is something I really
find interesting whenever it's done in literature. So, while I can
certainly see why people wouldn't like it, for me, it's a really powerful
work that made a very positive impression.
Ah, Love! could you and I with Him conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits - and then
Remold it nearer to the Heart's Desire!"
---Edward FitzGerald, "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam"
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