Monday, November 8, 2010

Bookish Dreaming Talking To Pyr - Gillian Polack

A multi-author round-table interview/discussion in some depth.

"JE: There are so many great books out there that I’ve never heard of, I’m more eager to sponge on other people’s experience and get new recommendations than I am to make them. But, tossing these vain scruples aside, one book I like to recommend is Gibbon’s Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon, in some ways, was a racist, classist, cynical, smug little prick. But he wrote stunningly beautiful English prose; he knew a lot; he could tell a good story and, when evidence failed him, he wasn’t wholly disinclined to make stuff up, an important virtue (and vice) in a historian. And, for an eighteenth century English Tory, he could sometimes be surprisingly sympathetic towards people unlike himself. The book is so huge that people tend to avoid it, or they read abridged versions that leave out things like the footnotes, where half the good lines are. But if you just read the first third or so (unabridged) you’ll get the best parts, with the craziest emperors playing whack-a-mole with usurpers and the western empire getting smashed up by barbarians and the martyr-speckled persecutions and the Gnostic theology and the whatnot followed by more copiously annotated whatnot.

Another recommendation I usually make, when I can overcome my natural hesitancy to impose my opinion on others, is to read Leigh Brackett. She has no particular claim to fame, apart from being the greatest sword-and-planet writer ever, and also the fact that she was a genius scriptwriter and a talented writer of detective fiction and westerns and postapocalyptic sf and... Okay, let me rephrase: she has a freakishly varied set of claims to fame. She was a wonderful stylist, always using the right word, never its second cousin. She was a great storyteller. And she belongs to the pulpy tradition that sf/f seems eager to leave behind and should not."

5 out of 5