The Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan

WoT06_LordOfChaos Lord of Chaos is book six of The Wheel of Time series. Mired in bloviated description, it plods for 986 pages only to end in a rushed battle scene and a confusing epilogue that begs more questions than it answers. Is Demandred disguised as Halima? Or, was it really Demandred disguised as Moghedien the entire book? Research reveals that no, Halima is not Demandred in disguise, despite the fact that she’s the only female character in six thousand pages to channel saidin, the male source of the One Power. It’s not nice to pull fast ones on your readers, Robert Jordan.

The book spends a lot of focus on Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve, yet strangely their storyline peters out in Ebou Dar as they search for a mysterious, but cleverly hidden ter’angreal thought to help control the weather.

The oddest thing in this book was the ceremony held as Egwene gets raised to Amyrlin. This series has been almost puritanical with only blushing, prudish references to nudity and sex, yet Jordan creates a scene in which all sitters, along with Amyrlin candidate Egwene, bare their breasts, declaring, “I am a woman” to prove that they’re female.

Mat Cauthon remains an insufferable misogynist who thinks women are all disingenuous schemers who wouldn’t last a day on their own if it weren’t for his protection.

Perrin and Faile, a pair who had been interesting characters in book five, seem wooden and flat. Faile’s ever-present jealousy and Perrin’s inability to communicate with his wife in any simple way became tiresome in their few scenes.

Thankfully, Loial is back, though sadly ignored, plot-wise for 90% of the book.

Despite the scrambled plot lines, the tedious repetition, and dozens of meaningless characters, I still want to know what happens to our crazy kids from the Two Rivers and Elayne, the daughter-heir of Andor. I can only hope that the characters deepen in upcoming volumes and that the writing somehow tightens. This book took me a few months to read, not just because of the flagging plot, I had to start reading other books to give myself a break from The Wheel of Time. On to book seven, albeit slowly.

October 2014 — January, 2015

The hands in death

If Grania were here beside him he would be able to tell her about the hands. If only he did not have to look at the hands. In death they told more than the face; he knew that now. It was the hands that revealed the final argument: clenched in anger, relaxed in acquiescence, seized in a posture of surprise or forgiveness, or taken unawares. Clawing at a chest, or raised unnaturally in a pleading attitude.

Interesting image here — Deaf folk use hands to communicate in life, and in this passage it seems as though hearing people’s hands communicate their final truth.

Deafening by Frances Itani

I listen to your body

“You can’t know. You’ll never hear me sing,” he teased. “Did you hear me hum the ‘Sparkling Waltzes’ when we danced at our wedding at Bompa Jack’s?”

“I felt the hum. I watch your words. I see your fingers on the keys. I feel your song. I follow your body when we dance. That’s how I listen. I listen to your body.”

Deafening by Frances Itani

Grania, who is Deaf, explaining to Jim how she “hears” him sing. I feel your song…I listen to your body. Beautiful.

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

the-shipping-news I loved this book so much the first time I read it, I returned to page one to start over immediately those many years ago. The Shipping News is just as lovely the third time around.

There are so many reasons why I love this book. The Shipping News was the first book that I’d ever read set in Newfoundland — the place where my mother was born and raised — a place she fled as soon as she could, to find security and prosperity elsewhere in Canada.

The landscape and the sea and the weather are characters in this book set in a climate that’s harsh, cold, and fickle. The weather changes from fine to menacing to life threatening in an instant. The sea, as Proulx so beautifully describes it, is like Newfoundland’s blood and beating heart in one:

The long horizon, the lunging, clotted sea like a swinging door opening, closing, opening.

The quirky characters, with names like “Tert Card” and “Wavey Prowse” and the dialogue rendered in thick, Newfoundland vernacular rings true to my ear. In the presence of relatives, I’ve heard plenty of lilty, euphemism-laden, hard-accented English, spoken at such a swift cadence I’d have to translate for friends baffled by speed and slang. Proulx gets it right: “Oh yis, I sees him afore. In ‘ere the odder day wit’ Billy. ”

When we meet R.G. Quoyle, he’s unmoored, adrift, and bereft at the death of his philandering wife, Petal. He’s nothing like his father Guy Quoyle, an incestuous molester. It is Quoyle’s Aunt, Agnis Hamm, (Guy’s sister) who pries Quoyle out of his doldrums, insisting they try for a fresh start and return to the house of the Quoyles in Newfoundland.

The house is dilapidated and desecrated, tied down not only by the wire that lashes it to the rock, but by the spectres of the past — the molestuous crimes that took place under its eaves and stories of the “wracker” Quoyles — ancestors who too, lived to inflict pain and misery on others by luring boats on to the rocky shore to murder the occupants and pillage their cargo. I love the fact that it is the weather — a violent storm — that bursts the wire cables and demolishes the house, releasing R.G. and Agnis from the burdens of the past — allowing them both that fresh start in their lives.

Above all, this is a book about hope: about overcoming, about uprooting ourselves from suffering and misery and making change. It’s about that feeling of potential, that sense of belonging and camaraderie we feel when crowded with family and friends into a lively kitchen. It’s about the simple comforts of warm homemade bread, bakeapple jam, and tea — prophylactics to the ever-present damp and cold, and to whatever it is that ails you.

November and December, 2014

Creature comforts for Nolan Quoyle

“Oh! Wunnerful! Wunnerful food! They’s ‘ot rainbaths out of the ceiling, my son, oh, like white silk, the soap she foams up in your ‘and. You feels like a boy to go ‘mongst the ‘ot waters. They gives you new clothes every day. White as the driven snow. The television. They’s cards and games.”

“It sounds pleasant,” said Quoyle, thinking, he can’t go back to that reeking sty. “No, no. It’s not entirely pleasant. Bloody place is full of loonies. I knows where I is. Still, the creature comforts is so wunnerful I play up to ‘em. They asks me, ‘Who are you?’— I says ‘Joey Smallwood.’ Or, ‘Biggest Crab in the Pot.’ ‘Oh, ‘e’s loony,’ they think. ‘Keep ‘im ‘ere.’”

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

The phrase, “go ‘mongst the ‘ot waters” and Nolan Quoyle’s joy at such a simple pleasure we take for granted, is something about this book that has stuck with me over the years since I first read it.

A bound prisoner straining to get free

The house was heavy around him, the pressure of the past filling the rooms like odorless gas. The sea breathed in the distance. The house meant something to the aunt. Did that bind him? The coast around the house seemed beautiful to him. But the house was wrong. Had always been wrong, he thought. Dragged by human labor across miles of ice, the outcasts straining against the ropes and shouting curses at the godly mob. Winched onto the rock. Groaning. A bound prisoner straining to get free. The humming of the taut cables. That vibration passed into the house, made it seem alive. That was it, in the house he felt he was inside a tethered animal, dumb but feeling. Swallowed by the shouting past.

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

A bound prisoner straining to get free…That was it, in the house he felt he was inside a tethered animal, dumb but feeling. Swallowed by the shouting past.

Like the sea, with its heartbeat, the green house is alive; it’s a character in the book, though it’s not complicit in the horrors that happened under its roof.

The approximation of a Newfoundland accent

“Well, Agnis girl, what’ll you ‘ave today?” The waitress beamed at the aunt. “I’ll have the stewed cod, Pearl. Cuppa tea, of course. This here is my nephew, works for the paper.” “Oh yis, I sees him afore. In ‘ere the odder day wit’ Billy. ‘Ad the squidburger.” “That I did,” said Quoyle. “Delicious.” “Skipper Will, y’know, ‘e invented the squidburger. Y’ll ‘ave it today, m’dear?”

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

This is the first true approximation of a thick Newfoundland accent in the book.