An SFnalish mistranslation of Part 1:I from Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus

WHM (mis)translates the first sonnet in Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus: “A tree of immense clarity arose. One made of bard songs.”

photo of the painting Beech Tree by Achille-Etna Michallon
Beech Tree by Achille-Etna Michallon; Thaw Collection, Jointly Owned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of Eugene V. Thaw, 2009

A tree of immense clarity arose. One made of bard songs. A tall tree for tall tales.

The tree arose and the world went quiet. The kind of quiet from which proceeds hints and signs, inceptions and transformations.

Mythic beasts nosed their way into this quiet out of languid forest dens and sleepy mountain aeries. The urge to bellow, to shriek, to growl, to roar had shriveled in their hearts. They all foreswore that they creep softly about not from fear or trickery but so that they may listen.

This was a time where existed scarcely a hovel to receive the quiet the tree had ushered into the world. No lair of darkest desires whose threshold trembled in response to the great silence. And so you felled the tree and raised from it a great hall in which to recite your verse.

Note on the translation: this is not even close to a faithful translation. For one, it’s prose and not poetry. For another, I drop the the mention of Orpheus that is central to the context of the entire project and switch some of the allusions to a different context entirely. For another, I interpolate all over the place. But the feeling of it—that I hope to have preserved/conveyed. Also: I have yet to read an English translation that deals well with the final stanza. Switching to prose allowed me a bit more freedom to turn it into something of a narrative.   

The original German version (as well as the rest of the sonnets in the cycle) can be found at Project Gutenberg DE

County Doctor, a translation of Kafka’s Ein Landarzt for the American West

A man in a suit in the seat of a buckboard. Two horses are hitched to it. It is winter.
Image credit: Neenah History, flickr


The following is a translation of Franz Kafka’s short story “Ein Landarzt” that I did in the summer of 2004. I publish it here so that I have a more permanent home for it on the web. Two notes follow the main text of the story.  

I was in dire straits. An urgent trip stared me in the face. A seriously ill patient waited for me in a small settlement about 10 miles outside of town. In the howling space between us raged a blizzard.

I was ready to go. I had a buckboard suitable for navigating the rough country roads — light framed with large wheels. I was clad in a calf-length sheepskin coat. My medical bag was fully stocked. I stood in the yard ready to get on the road. But one thing was missing — the horse. I had no horse.

My only horse had died of overexertion the night before, a casualty of this icy winter. My hired girl was now running around town trying to scare up a loaner. But I knew it was hopeless. And as the snow continued to pile up, the road becoming ever more impassable, I could only stand there fixed in place.

The hired girl appeared at the gate and waved her lantern. But of course. Who would lend his horse for such a journey? I paced across the yard once more. I couldn’t think of any more options. While agonizing over my situation, I absentmindedly kicked the rotting door of the pigsty, which hadn’t been used for many years.

The door flew open and flapped back and forth on its hinges. The thick, warm breath and smell of horses emerged. A ranch hand, his frank, blue-eyed face dimly lit by a lantern swinging from a rope, crouched in the ramshackle structure. “Should I harness the wagon?” he asked, crawling forward on all fours. I wasn’t sure what to say and only bent forward to see what else was in the sty. The hired girl stood next to me.

“You never know what’s available in your own pantry,” she said, and we both laughed.

“Hey brother, hey sister!” called the ranch hand.

Two horses burst through the door frame one after the other, their legs pulled up against their torso, well-formed heads dipping like camels, only able to push themselves out through a forceful turn of their powerful bodies. But soon they were upright. They stamped the ground, stretching their long limbs and shaking their solid, damp bodies.

“Help him,” I said, and the hired girl eagerly moved to hand him the harness. The moment she was within reach, he grabbed her and pressed his face against hers. She cried out and flew to my side, two neat, red rows of teeth marks on her cheek.

“You beast,” I yell angrily. “Are you looking for a whipping?” But then I remember that he is a stranger, that I don’t know where he hails from, and that he is volunteering to help me when everybody else has refused to.

As if he knew my thoughts, he simply ignored my threat and instead, the horses’ reins still in hand, looks in my direction. “Get in,” he says, and indeed everything is ready. I suddenly realize that I have never traveled with such a fine team and happily climb up on the seat.

“I’ll take the reins — you don’t know the way,” I say.

“Go ahead,” he says. “I’m not coming with you. I’m staying with Rose.”

“No,” she screams and, correctly sensing her inescapable fate, runs to the house. I hear the jingle as she chains the door. I hear the key turn in the lock. What’s more I see how she traverses the entryway and dashes through the front room extinguishing all the lamps, trying to cloak herself in darkness.

“You ride with me,” I say to the ranch hand. “Or I renounce the trip, as urgent as it is. I’m not going to trade the girl for the trip.”

“Giddy-up!” he says, clapping his hands together.

The buckboard jumps forward like a downed tree branch caught in a flash flood. Yet I still hear the front door of my house splinter and burst under the ranch hand’s assault. Then my eyes and ears — all my senses — are filled with a piercing whistling.

But even that is only the blink of an eye. Then, as if my patient’s yard had opened up immediately in front of my gate, I am already there. The horses stand quietly. The snow has stopped falling. Moonlight surrounds us. The patient’s parents hurry out of the house, his sister in tow. They pluck me from the buckboard. I catch none of their confused chatter. The sick room is unbearable — stuffy and smoky from an untended stove. I want to push open the window. First, I will examine the patient.

He’s shirtless, a scrawny kid with empty eyes. He doesn’t have a fever. He is neither cold nor warm to the touch. He raises himself up out of the feather bed and attaches himself to my neck. “Doctor — let me die,” he whispers in my ear. I glance around the room. No one has heard him. The parents stand silently, leaning forward, awaiting my verdict. The sister has brought a stool for my bag.

I open the bag and dig through my instruments. The boy continues to nag me about not forgetting his wish. I grab a pair of tweezers, examine it in the candlelight, and place it back in the bag.

“Yes,” I think blasphemously. “This is the way the gods help. Send the missing horse. Add a second to hasten the trip. And go overboard and throw in a ranch hand to boot.”

And now, for the first time, my thoughts turn to Rose. What shall I do? How can I save her? How do I pull her out from under the ranch hand when I’m ten miles away with horses I can’t handle harnessed to my buckboard?

Speaking of the horses, they have somehow slipped out of their harnesses and unlatched the window from the outside. Each pokes its head through and, undistracted by the family’s outcry, peers intently at the patient.

“I’ll go back right now,” I think, as if the horses had summoned me for the return trip. And yet I let the sister, who seems to think I’ve become overcome by the heat, take my coat. A glass of whiskey is placed in my hand. The old man pats me on the shoulder as if to make me feel better about my supposed condition. Only his devotion to his treasured son excuses this intimate gesture. I shake my head. The old man’s limited thought processes sicken me, and I decide to not drink the whiskey.

The mother stands near the bed and beckons me. I walk over to it. As I lay my head on the boy’s chest, one of the horses begins to neigh to high heaven. The boy shivers upon contact with my wet beard. It confirms what I already know: He is healthy. His blood may be a little thin — undoubtedly his mother has over-hydrated him with coffee — but he is healthy and should be rousted out of bed with a swift kick.

I’m no do-gooder so I let him lie where he is. I am employed by the county, and I more than fulfill my duties — sometimes to the point where it becomes almost too much. Although poorly compensated, I still am generous and ready to help the less fortunate. But it’s Rose whom I must attend to now. Then the boy can have his wish granted him, and I — I too will want to die.

What am I doing here in this endless winter? My horse is dead and no one in town would loan me one. I have to draw a team out of a pigsty, and if there hadn’t had been the lucky accident with the horses, I would have had to have been pulled by pigs. That’s just the way it is.

I give the family a deliberate nod. They don’t know a thing about all this and even if they did, they wouldn’t believe it. Writing prescriptions is easy, but coming to an understanding with people is quite difficult.

Now here is where my visit would normally come to an end. Someone has needlessly bothered me yet again. I’m used to it. The whole county tortures me with the aid of my night bell. But that this time I have to also give up Rose — for years this beautiful girl has lived in my house barely noticed by me. It’s too much of a sacrifice. I pause and gather my thoughts. I need to subtly make sure that I don’t alienate this family, who couldn’t give me Rose even if they wanted to.

However, as I close my bag and gesture for my coat, the family stands in unison, the father taking a sniff of the glass of whiskey in his hand, the mother most likely disappointed in me. What do these people expect of me? Then the sister, tears filling her eye, biting her lower lip with concern, waves a handkerchief soaked with blood, and anyhow, under the circumstances, I am ready to admit the boy might be sick.

I go to him. He smiles at me as if I was bringing him some remarkable cure-all — and now both horses neigh. The alarm bodes well. The heavens are undoubtedly arranging to make the exam easier. And now I find that the boy is indeed sick. A palm-sized wound has opened up on his right hip.

At first glance the wound is several shades of rose-red. Darkest in the middle, it grows lighter as it reaches the delicate edges. Blood has collected in places and the entire thing is as open as a mineshaft. Upon closer examination, another complication appears. Who can see such a thing and not let out a soft whistle? Worms the size of my little finger — rose-colored like the wound, both from their own pigmentation and also because they are coated in blood — wriggle their white heads and multiple legs. They have attached themselves deep in the wound.

Poor fellow. Nothing can be done for him. I have found his great wound. Yes, this flower in your side will send you to an early grave.

The family is happy to see me acting in the manner of my profession. The sister says so to the mother; the mother to the father; the father to a few guests who are tippy-toeing in through the open door along with the streaming moonlight, their arms outstretched to keep their balance.

“Will you save me?” whispers the sobbing boy, almost blinded by the life teeming in his wound.

And thus are the people in this county. Always they demand the impossible from the doctor. They have lost the old faith. The priest sits at home and idly picks apart his vestments, one after the other. But the doctor should perform everything with his gentle, well-trained hand. This is how things stand at the present: I have not resigned from my position. They use me up with holy errands. And I let them. What can I change, an old county doctor deprived of his hired girl?

And they come — the family and town elders — and undress me. A choir of school children lines up in front of the house, and, under the direction of a teacher, sings (to a simple tune):

Undress the man, he’ll heal us then
And if he can’t, we’ll shoot him dead
You’re only a doctor, a county doctor

Then I am undressed. I quietly give these people a stern look, my hand pressed to my bearded chin, head slightly tilted.

I am perfectly composed, above it all, and will remain so, yet this fact doesn’t help me at all for now they take me by the head and the feet, carry me to the bed, and lay me on the side closest to the wall, the side with the gaping wound.
Then they all leave the room. The door is closed. The song grows quiet. Clouds pass in front of the moon. The bedding wraps me in its warmth. The horses sway their shadowed heads in the open window.

“You know,” I hear whispered in my ear. “I have very little faith in you. You were whisked here with the storm. You didn’t come on your own two feet. Instead of helping, you crowd my deathbed. I would love nothing more than to scratch your eyes out.”

“Quite right,” I say. “It is an utter humiliation. I am only a doctor. What am I supposed to do? Believe me — this won’t be easy for me either.”

“So I should be content with this excuse? Oh, I suppose I must. I must always remain content. I came into this world with a handsome wound. It was my entire inheritance.”

“Young friend,” I say. “Your mistake is — you have no perspective. I, who have been in sick rooms far and wide, tell you: your wound isn’t that bad. Created by two neat strokes of the axe. Many offer up their side and scarcely hear the axe in the forest, let alone that it is creeping silently closer.”

“Is that really true? Or are you trying to take advantage of my fever and deceive me?”

“It’s true. Take the word of a Harvard-trained doctor.”

He took it and grew still.

But now it was time to think of how I could save myself. The horses still stood faithfully in place. Not wanting to delay myself by dressing, I gathered up my clothes, coat and bag. If the horses hurried like on the trip here, I’d be able, in a manner of speaking, to jump out of this bed into my own.

One of the horses obediently drew his head from the window. I tossed the bundle of clothes onto the buckboard. The sheepskin coat flew wide, but one of its sleeves snagged on the end of the wagon and lodged there. Good enough. I swung myself onto the horse.

Loose reins dragging, the horses barely roped together, the buckboard wandered forward, the coat trailing in the snow. “Giddy-up!” I said, but giddy-up they didn’t. The horses pulled us through the snow-covered wasteland as slow as old men.

Behind us the distant sounds of children singing a new, inaccurate song rang out:

Dance with joy — all you patients
The doctor has lain beside you

I will never make it home like this. My flourishing practice is lost. My successor robs me — but without profit for he cannot supplant me. That revolting ranch hand rages in my house. Rose his sacrificial victim. I don’t want to think about it. Naked, exposed to the frost of this disastrous age, in an earth-bound wagon drawn by unearthly horses, I meander forward like the old man that I am.

My sheepskin coat lies behind me.

But I can’t reach it. And not one of the rabble — not even the most agile of my patients — lifts a finger to help! Deceived! Betrayed! Once a false alarm in the night is answered — it can never be made right. Never.

Notes on the translation:

1. In this translation I carry over a crucial aspect of the original German: a tense change that occurs part way into the story, one that has been omitted from most (if not all) of the older English, traditionally published translations. 

2. I claim that this is a translation for the American West. I made some of the details of the story explicitly so because I feel like modern American (and other) readers might be tempted to read this as more fairy tale-like and less situated in time and place, and, most specifically, in the bureaucracy of the state, as I think it is.

Reader expectations and Ancillary Sword, Hawk, The Peripheral and The Slow Regard of Silent Things

WHM reviews four books — Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie; Hawk by Steven Brust; The Peripheral by William Gibson; and The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss — by looking at his reader expectations in relation to them and his actual reading experience.

Reader expectations are a blessing and a bane to both readers and authors. To authors because they can either productively constrain or unproductively overwhelm the writing process. To readers because expectations can either heighten or warp their experience of reading a book. It might be nice if they didn’t exist at all, and, of course, they vary widely across an author’s readership. Which is why authors shouldn’t worry about them at all. Except I suspect that they do even as they try not to. And the more I write fiction, the more I suspect that the worst reader expectations authors have looming over them is not the readers out there in the world, but the reader in their own head.

I suspect that even though it’d be nice for authors to not have to deal with reader expectations at all, for most of them, it’s more than just a necessary evil. For one, most authors do want a readership and understand that with readers come reader expectations. For another, expectations give authors something to tease and play with and subvert — not for capricious reasons, but because literature is a conversation and most authors — especially the four I’ll be talking about below — want to further that conversation is interesting ways.

I’ve been thinking of reader expectations quite a bit lately because of the nature of the SF&F novels I’ve read over the past couple of months. I found myself becoming more aware than normal of the expectations I had as a reader for these novels and then trying to figure out what those were, why I had them, and how they varied. I’ve come to realize that my expectations form a sort of benign tyranny that I can’t escape (although modifications may be possible).

Please note that this is not exactly a review of these books which means there are spoilers ahead, although (as often is the case with my writing on genre fiction) I won’t be spoiling the entire plots or the endings (how’s that for setting up reader expectations?).

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

Cover of Ann Leckie's Ancillary SwordLike sophomore albums, sophomore novels are notoriously laden with anxiety and expectation. When your sophomore effort is the sequel to a debut novel that swept the Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Clarke and Locus awards? Those are some heavy expectations to live up to. And yet, my perception is that reader expectations for Ancillary Sword were not miles high. I think readers knew that there was no way that the second Leckie novel could surpass or even live up to the first — not in terms of the quality of writing and plotting but in relation to the way the first swept in and dominated the conversation.

But even with those more realistic expectations, Ancillary Sword seems to have been met by many with readers with “yeah, it’s good. It’s not as good as the first.” I had absorbed a little bit of that feeling by the time I read it, but largely came in, I think, with a different set of expectations. I was not looking for epic-scale extension of the first. I had not been as disoriented by the sole use of female pronouns and so didn’t see it as much as a novelty and a gimmick. And I was more interested in the personal dynamics of the characters than the over-arching political machinations within which they collided.

Which is why I think I like the novel more than a lot of other readers. Here’s what I mean by that:

Ancillary Sword is a mystery novel where we have a fairly good sense of who did what and possibly even why. The real mystery is: how are the key characters going to react to the events and personalities set in motion by the mystery? And specifically: Breq (who is the remnants of a ship AI in its only surviving ancillary [human body]), Seivarden (who is a military officer and aristocrat who had been in cryosleep for 1,000 years), and Lieutenant Tisarwat (who had been implanted with an AI copy of Raadch emperor Anaander Mianaai and is trying to cope with the that copy being removed and who she now is). In other words, we have three characters all of whom have reasons to be considered core to the Raadch empire and its socio-political structure, but who also are all alienated from it and its technologies and all of whom have different levels of awareness of each other on both an emotional and technological level. Most specifically: because Breq had been an ancillary of a ship, when she is made captain of Mercy of Kalr she gains more access to the ship AI and through it her crew than a “normal” captain would. This means that from a narrative standpoint, we’re getting something different than in Ancillary Sword — something between the simultaneous awareness of Justice of Toren and the complete isolation of Breq. I was expecting Leckie to do something interesting with that and she did.

To put it succinctly: Leckie delivered on furthering the socio-cultural and political aspects of the situations she created in Ancillary Sword. This worked for me because that’s what I like best in her work. Readers who were more interested in the more space opera elements of the series were likely more likely to feel let down.

I think a sidenote on the use of gender pronouns is also in order: whereas I wondered at the outset if it was going to become annoying, I found Leckie’s insistence on using only (what is in English) the female pronoun even more effective in this novel because of the sexual and social dynamics that explode. It made even more of a feminist statement in that the sexual power dynamics resisted what normally would have made for the most lazy of gender stereotyping. For me, it underlined the strength of that initial decision.

Hawk by Steven Brust

Cover of Hawk by Steven BrustNow that we’re 13 novels into the Vlad Taltos series, what does a reader expect from the fourteenth novel Hawk? I think we expect:

  1. That it will be witty and amusing.

  2. That it will relate to the house that the novel is named after.

  3. That it will offer something clever in terms of narrative and/or plot structure — something clever in the telling.

  4. That the overall storyline will be furthered.

And I think we have now come to be rather confident that Brust is going to deliver on all four of those expectations. But I think for readers of the series, myself included, something more specific was expected of Hawk: it’s time for Vlad’s situation to change. That Brust knew this as well shows how good he is and how in tune he is with his core readership. Even more lovely is that he uses techniques 1-4 above to make it all happen. And in doing so he squeezes out extra dread and pathos. It’s not easy to bring deftness of prose and structure and humor and even odd whimsy to a story and still bring the sense of danger and the underlying, well, sadness and sense of loss.

And that’s why this is such a Hawk Hawk. Why it’s such a Daymar novel even if, though he is crucial to the plot, he doesn’t pop up all that much in the story. I’ve always found Daymar to be a fascinating character — perverse not in a perverted way. Capricious and oblivious but also knowing and because of that knowing tinged with darkness. So it’s fitting that this be the book where Vlad takes on the fact that the price the criminal organization the Jhereg has put on his head has for much too long ruled his life and his relationships. And it’s fitting that Daymar be the mechanism by which he attempts to do so.

This many novels into a series, the expectations are that Brust give us what we want but also give us something new. He does that with Hawk. Just like he has in the past. There’s a level of trust Brust has developed with his readers that goes beyond simply expectations. It’s a beautiful thing and even more beautiful when it’s used in such an interesting, renewing way.

The Peripheral by William Gibson

Cover of The PeripheralWhat expectations to have for the latest Gibson novel The Peripheral? I know that I’m not the only fan who enjoyed the Bigend novels but hoped that he would return to work that was more science fictional. What messed me up is that somewhere in something I read the term “time travel” got attached to the book. I hate time travel. Compounding that fact, Gibson is at his most spare, most techno self which means readers are thrown into the thick of it without much scaffolding at all, which meant I started to get impatient a few chapters in. My expectations were both too high and too low. I was prepared for disappointment. And yet there’s also a respect there that no matter what it’s worth sticking with just to see if he delivers and so in spite of my wariness and my confusion about the settings as the novel beings what kept me going is the prose is just so good. Smooth and buttery with just the right hints and weird details to show that this isn’t the present. It’s the future. Or futures. And so when we hit page 68 in Chapter 18 and the alternating POVs we’ve been tracking get explained in relation to each other, I was hooked (sidenote: the chapter titles are a spec-fic story in and of themselves, a little added pleasure to the reading experience).

This, perhaps, has led me to overvalue the novel. Twisting expectations can do that if the ways in which they get twisted are effective and pleasurable. It’s nice when an author delivers when, at first, you think they aren’t. And this really shows why authors are so at the mercy of reader expectations: there’s no reason why Gibson deserved my wariness. Or at least no good reasons.

I won’t spoil the ending. But what’s fascinating about The Peripheral in relation to our (my) expectations of Gibson’s fiction is that he lets go of some of the cool-ness we had come to, ahem, expect from him. There’s a strange tenderness to how he seems to feel about the characters (or at least how the implied author feels). I’m not sure if I completely buy it. I’m not sure if Gibson has changed those things that drive his authorial persona. Or to put it more grandiose: is he really that optimistic? I don’t know. Part of me doesn’t trust that ending. But it has changed how I view the author quite a bit. Whatever the ultimate success of The Peripheral (and I’m still ruminating on that point) it completely, successfully messed with my readerly expectations but all in ways that are, if not old-Gibsonesque, are quite possibly new-Gibsonesque. It’s also messed quite a bit with my expectations for his next book. He’s added a new dimension to his conversation, and it’s one I want to continue.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

Cover of The Slow Regard of Silent ThingsIf Leckie gets allowances, Brust trust, and Gibson a measured respect, then what of my readerly expectations for Rothfuss? Wary is perhaps too mild but it’s the most complete single adjective. Look, I enjoyed Rothfuss’s prose in the first two titles in The Kingkiller Chronicle and some of the characterization, but there were episodes in both books that annoyed me. So why bother with The Slow Regard of Silent Things? Because I enjoyed the Bast story in Rogues and because I’m curious about Auri and because I do like his prose style. So there’s wariness and curiosity and then Rothfuss has to go and directly address reader expectations in a foreword to the novel. It’s not so much the “You might not want to buy this book” that annoyed me. It’s the “it’s only fair to warn you that this is a bit of a strange story” and “it doesn’t do a lot of things a classic story is supposed to do”. It gets exactly why I’m frustrated with him as an author because I see so much promise in his literariness but have been burned by those elements that play to whoever he’s warning in this foreword (or even worse explaining to in the endnote) or perhaps to those aspects of how he relates to his authorial self that require those additions.

This makes me a snob. But I think it’s clear from his front and back matter that Rothfuss is one. And here’s the deal: we meet in our snobbery in this story. Which is a good thing and I wish he’d indulge this snobbery more often and without the self-consciousness. And his prose is the best it’s ever been and the strangeness (which shouldn’t be warned against) is quite lovely. Expectations exceeded. I’m totally sucked into Auri’s world and the voice Rothfuss has developed for her. Except the wariness is still there. And it was right to be. Because, although subtle, the story still ties into some of the key issues that disrupt my experience of reading his work. Nicolette Stewart explains it at Book Punks better than I can,  but as the story progresses, I find myself foundering on the fact that Auri can’t just be Auri, she has to be herself in relation to Kvothe and she can’t just be who she is because of who she is but it has to be because of what was done to her. And it makes me gnash my teeth because if Rothfuss can’t let go of those things that make me wary with a book like this then what hope do we have of meeting each other’s expectations in the final novel of the trilogy? And it makes me sad because it seems like I should be one of his readers — that there’s room for a reader like me in his work. But we can’t quite seem to meet up. And that messes with how I approach each new story of his because each time I go in, I go in expecting that divide to be there. That’s not fair to me or Rothfuss. Which means that someone is going to need to get me to completely rethink my reader expectations before I will feel like it’s wise to pick up his next book. In retrospect, I should have seen Rothfuss’s attempt to set reader expectations as a sign that as much as it seemed that he was playing to me, he couldn’t quite let go of the expectations of his larger readership.

The Benign Tyranny of Reader Expectations

We all have our unique set of reader expectations that vary by author and work. Those can establish a benign tyranny in a reader that shade how we experience what we read in ways that aren’t necessarily under our conscious control. But those are also why the conversation can be so interesting. They lead to a variety of experiences and hearing each other’s experiences can help us re-visit our own and influence our reading experiences yet to come. What bothers me in Rothfuss may not bother other readers. What delights me in Brust may not seem quite as delightful to other readers. How I approached Ancillary Sword is clearly not how some other readers approached it. And I really have no idea what expectations other readers have of Gibson (talk to me about it in the comments even if you haven’t yet read The Peripheral).

What gets us in trouble is when we don’t examine our expectations and don’t articulate those when we make claims about the merits of individual novels and other works of narrative art. This doesn’t mean that we should self-consciously lay those out every time we talk about a novel. That could get quite annoying. Rather, it means that as we enter the conversation we should realize that literature is not a game of like or dislike, on an author’s side or not, and let that knowledge of the tyranny of our own readerly expectations not cause us to attempt to foist that tyranny upon others both in how we articulate our own experience and how we react to what others have to say about their own reading experiences.

Guest post at Bookworm Blues, etc.

I have a guest post at Bookworm Blues today that’s on three fantasy novels from 2014 that reward patient readers. I’m delighted that Sarah was willing to give me a slot on her blog and hope you all enjoy it .

This blog has been quiet of late. That’s because:

  1. I’ve been writing fiction more steadily.
  2. The day job got really crazy during the month of September.
  3. I keep reading interesting novels but then don’t get around to writing about them before I have to return them to the library.
  4. I’ve been feeling the need to write longer pieces (similar to the post at Bookworm Blues) that either engage with several works at once or go in-depth with a particular work, series or author.

I’m not ready to commit to longer (even more infrequent) blog posts, but it is an option I want to explore. So I may still pop up with a quick thought or quote every so often, but I’m going to give long-form a go and see if I can make that happen while continuing the momentum of my fiction writing.