How I met Lord Brandoch Daha

I picked up The Worm Ouroboros in a second-hand bookshop more than ten years ago. The title intrigued me, with its hints of esoteric mysticism and its old-fashioned use of the word Worm. The Worm, or wyrm, is an Old English word for dragon, but the ouroboros is Greek, alchemical, and is signified by a serpent biting its own tail – it’s the equivalent of a Möbius strip, the never-ending and ever-repeating flow of energy that is harnessed by Enochian magic.

Fascinating, indeed.How I met Lord Brandoch Daha, and Goldry Bluszco, and Queen Sophonisba

When I turned over the cover I was even more intrigued by the book. The art on my copy was the 1960s paperback, a childish style that mimics the woodblock style that Tolkien favoured for his own art and also references Lowry and Bruegel. The artist is unlisted, and according to the ISFDB there is no record elsewhere, which is disappointing.

My childhood, in the 1970s, was littered with books under these type of covers, and the jumble sales I frequented in the 1980s also steamed with this sort of artwork on book covers, mainly for children. There’s a touch of Noggin The Nog about it.

Anyhow, the appearance of The Worm Ouroboros in my local Oxfam bookshop coincided with my reading of the Histories of The Lord Of The Rings. The cover copy emphasised that Eddison  had been the writer used as comparison when Tolkien first appeared. I’d read the C S Lewis Cosmic Trilogy by then, and the full five volumes of T H White’s Once And Future King (which I adore – more on that elsewhere).

I was eager for more of the same.

So far, without even opening the book, I was intrigued. I had to be careful, though – it was a paperback which had obviously been well-loved, and was wrapped in sticky-backed plastic, and the glue along the spine that kept the pages in place was growing brittle with age. With gentle care I parted the covers to see if the words inside were what I was looking for.

It was.

Eddison’s language, when I flipped through the pages, was a challenge.

He challenged me to read him.

His prose is old skool even for those of us who love old skool. He’s been compared to Elizabethan English, to Shakespeare, and his use of language in The Worm Ouroboros certainly has that cadence and complexity of form.

He challenged me.

I rose.

I’ve read books where the story is sometimes tangled up in the writer showing off their mastery of something more than writing. Umberto Eco’s Name Of The Rose is one example – I came to the book after falling in love with the film, watching it more than a dozen times, and also with the words of my English-teacher father ringing in my ears that “Eco shows off” in his writing.

When I got round to reading the book of Name Of The Rose, I found myself skipping parts of the page when he got too tied up in monkish politics or descriptions of church procedures. Nice, but a bit like the raisins in a rum’n’raisin ice-cream – adds texture, doesn’t change the flavour. (At least I didn’t do what I did with Moby Dick [short of hurling it at the wall] and skip whole pages.)

Anyhow.

Eddison isn’t one of those writers. His prose is elaborate where needed, and adds juice to his fruit. The characters are mega-characters, straight out of the heroic epics, as if the Norse Gods had grown up in Ancient Greece or Turkey, and they act with such mature grace it makes us all feel like awkward adolescents.

The textures he evokes, the journey, is purposeful, and makes you want to follow wherever he goes.

The Worm Ouroboros itself is a trope, a meme, a theme throughout the book that lends an edge to the story but isn’t part of it. There’s no dragon hunt, no actual worm, no rescue of maidens.

There are enormous characters who live their lives with the strength of mythic beasts.

I wish Eddison was more accessible, because he deserves it. The Lord Brandoch Daha and Queen Sophonisba deserve it, the epic journeys they undertake across the landscape of his world. Game Of Thrones has nothing on this.

But I also like Eddison’s obscurity. It’s like a secret handshake. A key to a hidden land, perhaps, and only on Goodreads have I found fellow travellers.

If you’re up for a challenging read, an epic of heroes and villains and opulence and mythic elegance, for characters that glow with life and landscapes that maim the mind’s eye with their beauty, come join us.

Again, and again, and again.

Neat Post About Handling Burnout

At the rate I’m working on current stories, burnout is a long way off…

There’s also the other viewpoint, of course: Toast.

Published in: on May 24, 2012 at 10:43 pm  Comments Off on Neat Post About Handling Burnout  
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6 books about books (and libraries)

Books about books (and libraries) have a special place in literature. Here’s six of my favourites.

The Name Of The Rose – William of Baskerville and his novice travel to a monastery in Northern Italy. As they arrive, the monastery is disturbed by a suicide. As the story unfolds, several other monks die under mysterious circumstances. William is tasked by the Abbot of the monastery to investigate the deaths. The protagonists explore a labyrinthine medieval library, discuss the subversive power of laughter, and come face to face with the Inquisition.

The Shadow Of The Wind – Daniel’s father takes him to the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a huge library of old, forgotten titles lovingly preserved by a select few initiates. According to tradition, everyone initiated to this secret place is allowed to take one book from it, and must protect it for life.

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld – the librarian is an orangutan, and some of the books are so dangerous they have to be chained shut.

Jasper Fforde‘s books – Thursday Next is a detective who works for Jurisfiction, the policing agency that works inside fiction. They are a series of books based upon the notion that what we read in books is just a small part of a larger BookWorld that exists behind the page.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Norrell has a library of all the magic books in England and hoards them in his house in remote Yorkshire.

and the anti-book:

Zardoz – In the distant future Earth is divided into two camps, the barely civilized group Sean Connery in an orange loincloth in Zardozand the overly civilized one with mental powers. Zed, one of the barbarians, who worships the stone head Zardoz, comes upon an old library where a mysterious stranger teaches him how to read. When he finds a copy of a well known book, he sets out to learn the secret of the god he worships in an orange loincloth…

Published in: on March 20, 2012 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on 6 books about books (and libraries)  
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International Women’s Day 2012

I Will Fly by Elena Ospina

Published in: on March 8, 2012 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on International Women’s Day 2012  
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The Thrill of Being Published

Yep, it’s pretty cool. And someone, somewhere, has paid me for my work.

I’ve just checked my Amazon accounts and found out I’ve had my first downloads.

The feeling is a bit like when you get an interview for that job you wanted: a little exhilarated, but tempered with the knowledge that you have some way to go before you reach your next goal.

Why must edits be so easy to put off?

So, gentle reader, I am off to the garden of wordy delights, to pick a new harvest.

(I’m writing a new novel. And currently deep into editing another. Stay tuned – I want to write two new novels this year).

Published in: on March 7, 2011 at 11:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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