FLUMMOXED IN FANTASYLAND
I continue my travels through the unfamiliar territory of literary fantasy. So far, it continues to be rather a tiresome trek. I think half the problem is the number of pages it takes to really hook me. If the characters, or the writing, have not grabbed me by the end of the first chapter I’m inclined to think it will be a waste of my time to read further. But there is a bit of bulldog in me so I slog on. Having begun, and sort of finished, a fantasy novel for young teens, I am now reading two adult titles, swapping from one to the other when I get too bored, determined I will complete them and maybe, even, arrive at a point where I’m so engrossed that I want to give each one my sole attention to the end. But as wise Solomon wrote, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”, so it had better happen soon!
The books I am alternating between are The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, and William Horwood’s Awakening. I thought it best to read different styles of fantasy, so this is a comparison between magic realism and traditional fantasy. This is the third time I have attempted Eyre. I’m a third of the way through - the same point at which I stopped reading the first two times – and while I recognise the cleverness of it all, I don’t care about the characters or what happens to them, and I haven’t laughed once. The bulldog is in command, but only just. With Horwood’s book, I’m four chapters in and there are some teensy-weensy signs of warming in the care-factor. It’s a big book so I hope the temperature rises rapidly from now on.
The exception in my fantasy journey thus far has been Charles De Lint’s urban fantasy, The Mystery of Grace. The main character, a tattoo enthusiast known as Grace to her fellow mechanics at the garage where they restore classic cars, had me hooked almost immediately. But even without that, DeLint’s command of language would have kept me reading; that, and the redemptive nature of the story. I don’t need a happy ending for me to enjoy a book, but I appreciate layers of story-telling that make it possible for the characters to be redeemed, if not in the confines of the plot, then in the landscape of my imagination. DeLint made me think, made me laugh, made me re-read lines just for the sheer pleasure of it, and, yes, gave me a fresh appreciation of the grace of God.