Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Kushiel's Dart (Phèdre's Trilogy, #1) Well well well. I loved this book all over again with this reread. :) Yet I see the beginnings of why after falling in love with so much of Jacqueline Carey's work, I fell out of love. :( She is a brilliant writer, such beautiful, beautiful prose. Kushiel's Dart especially has such a beautiful style. The teller of the tale, Phèdre, uses hindsight to add weight to events, to tragedies, to victories. So many things are told with such a quiet intensity of emotion.

But as I continued reading through the two Kushiel series my love of her books diminished. And I think there are two reasons. The first is that she is a better writer than storyteller. I've recently seen a good quote about writing that says story is more than just a series of events. And I think that's where Carey falls a little short. Every Phedre novel was just a series of events leading to a bigger, badder antagonist to defeat. Imriel's novels had even less than that. I found the first two almost boring to read. So much so that the third novel in the Imriel series sat on my bookshelf for years before I could bring myself to read it out of obligation. But I must say... that one, Kushiel's Mercy, was an excellent suprise! It had an exciting and more intricate plot! Much like Kushiel's Dart, but lacking in the 4 books between those two.

I think the second reason I fell out of love with Carey's books is setting. I LOVE the world of Terre d'Ange that she created! I'm intrigued by all the different Houses of the Night Court, I'm intrigued by all the different companions of Elua and their heritage found in their scions and provinces. And I realized how much I wanted to learn more about them. I feel there's so much to explore there! And yet out of 6 Kushiel books so little time is spent in Terre d'Ange! And while rereading this book I realize that only the first third of the book is in Terre d'Ange, and then we're off to Skaldia and Alba. And the next few books, we're off to more distant lands or Alba or Caerdicca Unitas. Sigh. I miss Terre d'Ange and wish for more books set there.

But I will always love Carey's books and some of the messages I will always treasure. These ones most of all: That which yields is not always weak. And Love as thou wilt.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

The moments I fell in love

I have fallen deeply in love over and over again. And each love stays with me for life, never lessening, even if the freshness of that love fades a little with time. It fades to a steady familiarity and comfort vs the burning passion and excitement of the initial discovery. I speak of music my friends. I have loved albums and will love again. The deep joy and comfort they bring me knows no bounds sometimes.

And I couldn't help but reflect recently on the exact moments I fell in love with each album. Those memories are seared in my mind. And what I find interesting is that for me, like human romantic love, true love of an album is never love at first sight. The moments I realized I was in love were always after several listens. But even though it wasn't a first listen, the moment I realized I was in love was still sudden and intense!

And I've now had an urge to write them down and share. Coz they are such wonderful memories!

The first one that comes to mind is how I discovered Depeche Mode, one of my favourite bands of all time. One I was obsessed with for years! It was 1990/91. I was in grade 8 and staying at my friend's cottage with her parents. As the young 'uns we got the garage which had been converted into a large bedroom with beds for both of us. All to ourselves! It was a rainy day and we were stuck inside. We used to hang out reading our books side by side or in this case reading and listening to our Walkmans side by side. And she had lent me her older brother's tape to check out. And what was it? Catching up with Depeche Mode! And coz it was a tape I started it on the side that was quicker to rewind. And do you know what side it was? Side B. So I first listened to that album starting with Fly on the Windscreen, followed by Blasphemous Rumours. I listened to it a couple of times through, loving all the songs, especially Fly on the Windscreen. But then during one listen, Blasphemous Rumours blindsided me. I was in love!!! Suddenly, inescapably, inexplicably in love with this song and this band!! I fell deep and hard. I copied all the tapes my friend's brother had, so I could devour them over and over again on my own. I loved. Soon after came my favourite album of theirs, Songs of Faith and Devotion, released in 1993. My first concert of theirs at Toronto's biggest stadium, Skydome, wowed me! Dave Gahan's energy and passion transmitted to all corners of this massive stadium. I was hooked! My obsession has faded in recent years but my love has not. :)

I must then tell you of another love. Dave Gahan's Hourglass album. It was 2007. As a devoted DM fan I'd bought it of course. And now I was high-tech and had a Discman to listen to the CD on! ;) I again have it on repeat (my favourite way to get to know a new album :) for my commute to work. I think it had already been a few days of listening to it, when this one morning I walked out of McCowan subway station and walked up the Telus building at Consilium Place where I worked. I was metres away from the building and looked up... actually saw the great glass building for once... just as the track Hidden Houses roared into my attention through my headphones. Bham! I was in love! Again! That song was rapturous!! It's haunting yet not, and oh so beautiful, and Dave's voice! I will never fall out of love with that voice!

Now I will backtrack a few years. It's 1999 and I'm visiting my friend who's working in a hostel in Scotland. I had just failed my 3rd year of university and had a semester off in the fall while I waited to repeat my spring courses. So naturally the only thing to do was go backpacking in Europe! :D I stayed with her in the apartment she had behind the hostel. Her roommate also had guests sometimes, and I remember this one girl because she was playing my next love on the CD player in the place. That love must've happened on the first listen coz I can't imagine other people putting albums on repeat as obsessively as I do sometimes! ;) I quickly asked her who that was and what album it was and scribbled it on some paper. It was an Irish singer named Luka Bloom and the album was Riverside. I didn't think too much about it, might've forgotten about it but synchronicity had it's hand to play next! Soon after Scotland I went over to Ireland, and while walking around Dublin stopped in a music store. And thought "Oh I'm in an Irish music store, maybe I should check if they have that album from that Irish singer." And they did! And I bought it! And it was awesome! And do you know what song I so deeply, deeply fell in love with? Dreams in America. I cannot turn up the volume enough to enjoy that song!!! There's this one part of the song where the music swells into the finale... oh lordy... it is simply amazing!

I want to now tell you of a more recent love. I don't look for new music to listen to anymore. I find my mp3 collection big enough to enjoy and find "new" songs to love. So now I only seem to discover random favourite songs through movies and TV. One day I was watching the movie called Little Death. A series of tales of sexual fetishes and exploits. And one story has my most beloved scene of all time. It ends with him sketching and drawing her face and as he does, this music starts to rise and play over the scene. You watch his look of love and concentration as he draws, her look of flattered love as she watches him doing so. The song is Light by the band Sleeping at Last. I quickly went and downloaded the album Atlas: Year One that it's on. And that... that album... man... words can't describe how obsessed I am with it!! It is so gently, softly, beautiful!!! With heart-wrenching lyrics. And it is 30 songs! 30 songs and every single one is amazing!! With Light still being my all-time favourite! I love it so much! That album I still have on repeat here and there and only recently am I saturating with it enough that I can slow down my obsessive listening. It is comforting and beautiful. And I love it so much I don't want to listen to any of their other albums. I'm not sure why. I think I worry that if their other albums suck or are too different it may dilute my love of this one? That nothing can top this one, and all else of theirs will pale in comparison?! I don't know. I just know I have 30 beautiful songs on repeat. :P

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Tigana I've never read an author who so fully understands people and how complex our lives and feelings and behaviours can be.

Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favourite authors, and Tigana my favourite of his books. I first read it in my 20s and was bowled over by it. I've now reread it in my 40s, one year after my beloved father died. To say Kay understands and captures all the grief, and pain, and fierce joy there is to be found in this life, is an understatement.

And to intersperse that understanding of humans with grand storytelling of the highest measure is a skill beyond belief. I am, and always will be, in awe of what he can craft.

'Less is more' is a skill in all forms of writing and one in which Kay excels at. And many fantasy authors lack in their sprawling, pointless (but fun :) epics. In Kay's books every scene is essential to the story, and you're always left with this excruciating feeling of inevitability of the ending that occurs.

There are so many moments in this book where I was crying from overwhelming joy or sadness. The characters are mature albeit sometimes broken humans. With so much wisdom, so much heart, so much pain. The story of Dianora will always be one of the most tragic of all time. And a reminder that us humans are complicated creatures, full of seeming contradictions that ultimately make sense. A sentence from the book comes to mind, "It was all true, but none of it was the truth."

That truth is now my life's mission. The truth in me, the truth in others, is what I seek. I have only recently realized how closed off from my emotions I am, we all are, but to quote the book I feel that "the stern bindings that wrapped and held [my] heart [are] loosening."And I think when we can access all the things hidden behind our internal walls, we will begin to know some peace and a more authentic life. This book has showed my why this journey is worth it, and how it might look along the way. :)

Sigh... Tigana is a book so full of life wisdom, so full of heart, yet it's all wrapped up in some of the most exciting storytelling I've ever read.

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