Friday, September 30, 2011

Four years. I think this blog's time is past. I've moved.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Early mornings are lovely, even in the midst of project submissions.

I have been tripping on some very limited music this past week. This morning, men with deep voices enamour me. Richard Hawley, husky-voiced, lilting English (mindful of mountains and the cold, somehow) and slightly country. I would recommend The Sea Calls and Tonight, The Streets Are Ours, to begin with. Mind you, his lyrics are simple, sometimes too simple.

Rome, deep-voiced, rhythmic, very definitely folk/country. I recommend Flowers from Exile and Swords to Rust-Heart to Dust, and thank V for them.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Half-sung Songs

Guy Gavriel Kay, A Song for Arbonne: Blandly, I may tell you that it is an oft-told tale - of nations pitted against each other and bloody war, of earthly, human love and its many hatreds and pain. That would be unjust; Arbonne is much more than that. On a canvas of medieval almost-Provencal France, replete with vineyards, green-gold fields and sparkling rivers, GGK paints for us a masterful story of two lands ruled by different beliefs. Gorhaut is a land of hardy soldiers, anointed to the god Corannos and worshipping none other; it is prey to the designs of Galbert de Garsenc, its High Elder priest, who wishes to destroy all heretic lands in religious fervour. Arbonne, vine-filled valley dipped in sunshine, is that heretical land: woman-ruled, worshipping a goddess on par with Corannos, making much of music and of love. A Song for Arbonne is a celebration of Arbonne’s ways, of the liberated notions of womanhood existing alongside soldierly mastery, of the merry-making with music and love. It is also a story of war: of Gorhaut and Arbonne’s beliefs, of Talair and Miraval for the love of long-dead Aelis, of the many-layered hatreds and weaknesses of the Garsencs, of brute force and cruelty against what is right.

It is here that GGK exhibits his mastery: in his hands, the vastness of Arbonne is broken into intelligible and beautiful fragments. He fashions characters and themes by the multitude and weaves them into his story almost effortlessly. His descriptions leave one slaked of thirst: one wanders through Arbonne and Gorhaut, amidst the splendor and the horror, without difficulty. GGK also converges his themes of love and hatred, right and wrong, honour and treason, politics and individual lives well. Where he does strike a snag, however, is in the feeling.

I have no better word to explain this. GGK’s relationships in Arbonne are too contrived, artificial. Depth of thought and feeling is inserted through mere words, almost as an afterthought. No action, no involving emotional journeys bear evidence to either Blaise’s love of Gorhaut or of, say, Lisseut’s love for Arbonne. We have only their word, or their thought, that drills in this depth. Indeed, even loving relationships, such as Bertran and Aelis, or Blaise and Ariane de Carenzu are created out of thin air, with neither the past nor reason justifying their depth. I felt this most keenly in the scene in the inn at the Autumn Fair, where the joglar Ramir sings of love of Arbonne. Under a true master’s hand, this scene would have been the peak, the concretizing of the symbol that is Arbonne – a tool to capture the reader’s loyalties. Instead, one is left supporting Arbonne primarily because Gorhaut is not an option (they burn women at the stake, for god’s sake).

And it is here that I recall the magic that Tigana wove, pulling the reader in despite his possible misgivings, allaying and assuaging them, replacing them with new doubts, questions and judgments of each side of the battle. Tigana had one rooting for a character and his choices for clear reasons, for courage and valour, empathy, fealty and service. It may be that Arbonne has a different enemy to match. I rather think that Arbonne overreached a little: there are too many characters, too many themes inadequately created and addressed. In a story such as this, history matters. Reasons are instrumental to shaping the character and his (and our) involvement and sympathies. I do not curse Arbonne for this, though. But for this half-creation, Arbonne would have been an absolutely incredible read. Indeed, it still is. GGK has magic.