Odes to Guy Gavriel Kay

Tuesday, December 25, 2007 at 11:33pm

Haha! Ok these arent quite 'odes' coz I couldn't write something like that! But you get the idea! :) Also warning: this is long! Coz its about 3 of Guy Gavriel Kay's books!

The Lions of Al-Rassan

I re-read this again. Coz its amazing like most of his books. It takes you through great joy and sorrow in a tale of love and death, greatness and smallness, of people and ideals.

He writes such great bittersweet tragedies. Coz amongst the sorrow there is joy and love and somehow ultimately a happy ending is reached despite the losses. And a place, a setting, a situation is reached that is for the best. He creates such amazing, deep, complex characters. and a world that is so real and so relevant and so characteristic of our own. In part its because he writes speculative history (my term). This time ancient Spain. Where three religions dwell representing our own Islam, Christianity, Judaism. He describes so beautifully love, respect, loyalty to people and ideals, deep and true friendships. He takes you into each and every character's life, makes you understand them. So you experience all of the possible viewpoints, ideals, beliefs. And then tops it off with some of the most dramatic scenes in any art! Be it literature, movies, plays, etc. You read for pages not knowing what exactly happened in that last scene you read, until one line changes everything you've assumed. So yet again I'm overwhelmed by the greatness he can write. The great joy, the great sadness. sigh. Even having read it before! And oh yeah... his epilogues, this one included, are amazing. Shocking, yet they feel right.

One of the many questions this book brings up, I found myself thinking about.... do we have and appreciate great beauty in our things, in our art, in our structures, in our society, in our ideals, in our values, in our actions? Are we a civilization? Or just a group of people surviving? ...... I'm not sure. In some ways yes. We have art in many forms. Some beautiful, some just to be shocking. Things... some beautiful, but some just to look expensive. :/ Structures.... rarely beautiful, just a handful. Society, ideals, value, actions? Near to impossible to decide on those!


The Sarantine Mosaic
(this was an email I had sent out a couple of years before this post)

Ok so I'm harassing any of you who have ever expressed that you liked reading books. And emailing my Beer and Book Club like I threatened to do. ;) Coz the book I have just finished is just too, too, too damn amazing for words. (despite saying that I will now attempt to describe it with... words ;) You guys are my captive audience whether you read this or not and I will bore you with my love of this book! haha! And this book has also lead to a revelation of sorts..... one morning getting off the subway... reluctantly walking into work... still reading my book as I walked..... the "good" (that is of course subjective ;) books out there, the ones I enjoy are just tooooooo damn good to waste time reading stuff others recommend. Coz frankly I just rarely enjoy what others like to read. I really tried with this book club... I said I'm gonna read other shit to broaden myself... and I've stubbornly finished each and every one (except one that I just couldnt).... and just feel let down... and I'm going to go back to my hermitting of reading fantasy dammit! :) Kelly and James have read this one i think, so will understand the amazingness of this book. And this is the same author I recommended for my last book choice..... but I didnt pick this one coz its a duology. And the first book is kinda whatever but the second one, this one, was just fucking amazing. This is as good, maybe even better, then his other amazing one, Tigana.

So.... what do I gotta say about it? Forgive me guys, this is gonna get long I fear! haha! 1)... since i just finished it now... I'll start with the end.... the plot had climaxed a few tens of pages earlier... I was reading the epilogue... and you know how epilogues are... wrapping up loose ends, answering some questions but not really exciting in themselves. I was worried finishing this book would be anticlimactic. (after the rollercoaster of emotions it took me through earlier in the book)... but HOLY FUCK!!! I felt hit by a  mack truck!! Twice!!! Won't say more, but fuck!!!

And what he did in the ending is not bowl me over with a plot twist, a discovery, a la Barney's Version.... but just plain intensity?! Not sure how to describe it. But this is what he did throughout the book.... he describes life's passions, whether they be love of a husband or wife, love of your craft, love of the game.... with such intensity you FEEL that passion!!! I want books to drag me in, make me experience all the characters do, and then spit me out feeling overwhelmed!

So whats the gist of this book? Its a historical fantasy based on the Byzantine Empire, really not much fantasy to it. And the main character is a mosaicist. So here's some of the passions he describes in the book.... since the main character is an artist, Kay amazingly, thoroughly describes the guy's passion for his craft. I'm no artist, the furthest thing from it, yet I can begin to understand what can drive an artist. Another one... he describes the chariot racing and how obsessed everyone in the city was with betting on, and cheering for, one of the two major teams that race. And I'm definitely not a closet chariot race fanatic ;) ... yet on the subway I'm almost on the edge of my seat avidly reading how the leader of the blue team, brilliantly, genius-ly maneuvered a high-speed, 4-horse chariot to block the opposing guy and allow his 2nd to win all, while he has a stab wound, broken ribs and bleeding to death. (and don't talk to me about realism! don't want the stuff! haha) Another.... he describes the brilliance of the emperor and empress, how they became rulers. Beautifully describes and portrays the love they have for each other after all these years. Even down to the easy banter two people can have after years of being together.

You could skip the first book, its really not essential or that involving, but you know why it might be worth reading? You only care about characters you've spent time with, and know their history and background. Which is why to me a book is more then a movie.... you spend more time with the character and story, so you care for the characters more, and are just more involved mentally. So reading the first book maybe was good for getting to know the characters. Really I've known this about myself forever, but I just fucking love characterization!!!!!!!! That is one of the main things I look for in a book. Can you involve me and make me care about 'em.

There's only one thing I must admit I dont like about Kay's writing style. Although objectively speaking, its damn good and he does it well. He often uses seeming digressions to come back to the story or scene he was just describing. ie. he breaks off, and you're like fuck I wanna know what happened... then the next paragraph is about joe blow, his brief life history, and his thoughts and feelings.... and you're like what the fuck, I dont really care... but all of a sudden this character is at the scene of the previous paragraph, and you get to find out what happened from a different perspective. Very cool effect and writing style, makes you see how theres so many different opinions and viewpoints. Or even if not quite a different opinion... the tinge, the colouring our personalities can put on our view of the exact same scene someone else saw with a different impression. And one digression was interesting coz this fucking shmuck that tried to fuck over the main character... all of a sudden you're reading about his life story.... and by the vagaries of fortune... he becomes a famous crazy religious hermit whose writings are remembered over the ages, while everyone else's histories are forgotten. Kinda neat.. coz it shows you how some of our historic pieces of literature are so isolated since they're the only thing that survived over the years, and we revere them so highly but hey it could just be a shmuck who really didn't deserve to be remembered.

So congrats on making it this far!!!! I think I'm done!!! Phew! And thank you for reading even though I know I might not've when faced with an email of this length!! ;)


(Thursday, June 12, 2008)

This book needs to be written about. As do all Kay's books once you finish 'em. They overwhelm, and this one is no different. sigh. What Kay is absolutely fucking amazing at is emotions... such peaks of emotions. And all sorts. Really all sorts. And as I sit here watching the Croatia vs Germany soccer game.... and seeing that first goal by Croatia... and feeling, and seeing the pure joy and ecstasy of the coaches and players at that goal... you know what? I can't help but think life is about emotions?! Maybe that's not true for all people... but it is for me. sigh. :) :( >:-( :S ....

The book.... I'd waited to read it coz .. 1) I hate reading hardcovers so was waiting for the paperback version... and 2) it was set in modern day which made me hesitate since I really prefer reading in my genre (ie. scifi/fantasy). It takes either a Beer and Book Club or Kay to make me read outside my genre!! haha! BUT someone told me (thanks Rocky!) that it was related to the Fionavar tapestry so I was all of a sudden gung-ho!! And I finally read it now on my vacation coz found some time to devour a book in a couple of days! haha! Wow I'm babbling... stick to the point... which is... I loved the book of course!!!!! Loved the tie-in to Fionavar!! Absolutely LOVED all the emotions he sooo intensely portrays!! Like who else could portray 2500 yrs of love?!?! :) The sadness and joy of an end and a beginning?! The complexity of a love triangle?!

Set in Provence amongst the tons of rich history of Celts, Greeks, Romans in the area, the ruins from the wars, the conflicts, the conquests etc. I've been in the region but didnt realize how many ruins were there?! I'll have to go back!! :) It was a slow starting book for me... the dialogue felt forced at first... but I knew I just had to get into the book... and I did and it just flew after that. As always great, great storylines!! Great plot! Great story! Sooooo amazing!! I've always felt Kay was a well organized writer... really thought it all out... didn't just sit down and spit out words... crafted his story first and then wrote. And with all his descriptions of anal, organized characters I wonder if that is him too?!?! haha! :)