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March 30th, 2005 - Trickle of Consciousness — LiveJournal


Okay, Mr. Burns may not find it worth a biscuit, but I say Adrian Ramos deserves a whole basket for today's Count Your Sheep. This is the follow up to Monday's strip, where Katie gets herself a cause bracelet. Ramos manages to mix social satire with a fun kid-logic moment all at the same time. Strips like these are why he's on my sidebar links. Check it out.

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I've been trying desperately to like Stephen R. Donaldson's The Runes of the Earth. I was so very excited to see a new Thomas Covenant book on the stands late last year. I remembered finding the first two trilogies (or, most of them. I tracked the other books down) at a garage sale when I was a freshman in high school. I also remember liking them quite a bit. The chance to return to a world where a leper with a wedding ring could change the world had me all a flutter. I added the book to my wish list for Christmas, and my mother was kind enough to get it.

Things were going okay for a while. I was glad Donaldson or the publisher had seen fit to include a "what has gone before" section, since it had been so long between the second Covenant trilogy and this new book. I was notably creeped out by the current states of Covenant's family. And if Linden Avery (Covenant's former love interest and cohort in the second trilogy) was a little morose and ineffective, well, she was stuck in the real world. Soon enough she'd transition and be effective again.

Then she transitioned, and one of the changes to The Land in her absence insured she wouldn't have the power she'd made use of previously. Okay, okay, I can work with that. Obstacles make for stronger characters.

Except, really, she's not so strong. I know this because the narrator keeps reminding me, with all the purple prose he can muster, just how exhausted or overwhelmed or confused or frustrated Linden is. How she just can't bear any more. How she's either on the verge of tears or past the point of tears or fainting under the strain of her physical exertion. Each time, she's somehow sustained by the deep lore of The Land, succored by treasure berries or buoyed up by exotic spices in food or filled with the energy of Earthpower in hurtloam. Well, succored just long enough for her to go a few more feet, then once again she's faced with overwhelmingly confusing emotional exhaustion on the verge of tears and past it that clearly mean she can't go on. Oh, wait! More magic berries. All better. Or not.

And when Linden isn't bemoaning her circumstances and wondering how she can ever go another step, she's in the midst of exposition. Linden tells someone about her last journey to The Land. Linden hears a tale of the land from Covenant's first trip. Linden ponders a tale she's heard in juxtaposition to other tales she's heard or told. What can it all mean? How can it all fit together? So many questions unanswered. Here's one: Why the hell do I need to read reams of this stuff when you already recapped the whole bloody thing in the prefacing section?

I trudged through about two-thirds of this thing, though, because I kept thinking, here, finally, we've reached the end of the overwhelming self-pity and exposition from hell. Surely now she'll start, you know, doing something. I mean, there's a story to tell in the present, isn't there?

Then I thought: you know what, I did this to myself once already. I slogged through the entirety of Gregory Maguire's Lost because I told myself the man who'd done such a nice job on Wicked couldn't possibly be writing the going-nowhere, self-indulgent piece of annoyance Lost seemed to be. That time, there was a faint glimmer of interesting around the last 20 pages, but of course that's when the book stopped, so yeah, it really was the piece of annoyance it seemed to be.

Given the size of the Stack of Unread Shame, and the fact that it had been a good month and a half of trying to make my way through the book so far (I'm a slow reader at the best of times. It's especially hard to make prose headway when I just want to yell at the protagonist), I finally decided--despite a new glimmer of possible forward motion--it just wasn't worth forcing my way through another 200 pages.

I don't know if it's Donaldson phoning it in. Possibly the original books were just as overwritten, but in high school, I thought that was Good Writing or something. I prefer to think it's the former, but either way I think the first and second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant won't be coming out for re-reading for me any time soon. I think I'll just remember them as compelling fiction and leave potential disillusionment out of the equation.

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