The Name of the Wind and strange couches
Coming back to reading fiction after nonfiction feels a bit like hitting Friday night and picking your favorite poison. Some people throw themselves into it, drown in a glorious oblivion, and suffer their hangover while counting down to Friday again.
Because I’m an anxious ball of nerves, I look at a book series (especially a good book series) like a drug that must be administered in careful doses with great attention. Fantasy, my genre for the month, used to be my favorite high. There was a time I would “hibernate”, holed up in my room with a massive series just crunching away the hours lost in the worlds that were far more exciting than reality. From the time I got hooked into a book to the end of the series, I would have this kind of fog over my mind made up of questions like “When can I read again?” “What will happen to them?” “Will we ever get to see the sword in action?” Then, at the end of the series, I’d cry. Well, I would usually cry, especially if the series was good.
High school and college happened then. In High School, fantasy was lowbrow compared to the chance to read the works that inspired it. In college, what English major has time to read for fun? Lit classes and writing courses prescribed enough reading to fill every spare minute, and it was thick enough stuff to suck the energy right out of you.
I tell you this because this month was my first legitimate return to my written drug of choice. I thought I was over it. I thought I was ready for that sweet release of a good book, for that fog of immersion and excitement.
I was wrong.
Why I couldn’t relax is fully open to psychological analysis. Probably a much-too-high need for control.
I read Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, the first in his Kingkiller Chronicles series. This was mainly due to a book club who insisted I would love his work and cheered me through this portion of the “big fat fantasy” series. It’s worthy of the epithet, coming in at a hefty 600+ pages in the mass market paperback edition.
Because I had a few of his fan club members to talk to through the read, I had an excuse to comment on my experience. Here are some of those comments, progressing from the beginning of the book to the end:
“I’m a little cranky at how I’m increasingly willing to be lulled into the story. Not that it’s easier, I’m just getting more willing.
Like when you’re a kid and your folks take you to some strange relative’s house and you don’t wanna take a nap, but you’re SO TIRED. Their couch smells all funny and that blanket isn’t YOUR blanket and you’re like “no! I’m not tired! I’m not *yawn* tired!” and then your mom plops you on that weird smelling couch that isn’t even soft and it just looks better and better and you know you’re not going to get your way.
And so you nap.
But that isn’t what you wanted.
I wanted to read this and learn. But now I’m just like “tell me story”.
So I’m cranky.
For me, reading is a pretty intimate thing because I know what goes into it.
So yeah… a stay at crazy Uncle Pat’s house where I sleep on the couch whether I want to like it or not.”
“There was a point this weekend where I put down the book and weighed how much I was getting into it. My tolerance threshold for getting lost in a book is sadly pretty low. I don’t like to feel out of control.
I picked it up again, so there’s that.”
“Is this person important? I like them too much for them not to be important. Say they’re important.”
“I want a draccus.”
As you read what Simon and Thomas from The Readers call “a chunkster”, the version of you that begins the book and the version that finishes it are going to be different.
I’m now looking at the end of this book and I’m not happy it ended. I’m especially not happy the month is ended. Even though I’m psyched at my new topic to explore in March, I’m not sure if I would be psychologically prepared to plow forward into book two.
Thinking about it, I think I’m okay. Gotta be happy with my safe dosage. For all I know, reading the next one will ruin things and I’ll be hungover and furious the third book isn’t ready yet. Loved this book, though. It’s a story that will sit in the back of my head and bubble up at odd times, fermenting pleasantly until I come back for more.
As a particularly nice bit, Rothfuss is a pleasure to watch work. I managed to keep my head enough to enjoy his repeated volleys against fantasy tropes.
It was a little like watching a dodgeball master. Think you know what’s coming? Nope! He caught it, throws it back with a stinging backspin! … Here comes another, dodge and – wait! He’s got another out!
I wanted to golf clap for him. Good form, good form!