complete Game of Thrones ebook set for $9.99 #asoiaf

song-ice-fire
The complete 5-volume set of A Song of Ice and Fire
is on sale right now for $9.99 at Amazon, so grab it quick if you don’t already have it.

The complete series, A Song of Ice and Fire, is probably the authentic heir to Tolkien’s crown of Reference Epic Fantasy. Being American rather than British, it’s heroes are more typified by the tragic Starks than the homely Bagginses. Bilbo and Frodo (and especially Sam!) were the typical WW2-era simple Briton, preferring a simple life but when called upon to great tasks, heroic in their pragmatism and perseverance. Ned Stark’s clan is more violent, impulsive, bred for leadership and heroism and fated for nasty ends. If anything the heroes of ASOIAF are the antithesis of the heroes in LOTR (the closest that LOTR comes to an ASOIAF-style hero is Aragorn, who has the same Starkian bearing but gets to keep the girl and his crown. And head.)

I’ve never read ASOIAF and have no illusions about it being an easy read, but I am looking forward to the journey, especially since by the time I finish it, book 6 will surely come out. I am certain that this series will fill the void left by LOTR that the Wheel of Time series failed to fill.

“genre” vs “serious” fiction

An intriguing essay on the arbitrary distinctions made by the literature community when deciding what books are treated as proper literature and which are relegated to the genre ghetto:

In a strange quirk of history, literature in the late 20th and early 21st century failed to follow in the footsteps of Joyce and Pound. Instead, conceptual fiction came to the fore, and a wide range of writers—highbrow and lowbrow—focused on literary metaphysics, a scenario in which sentences stayed the same as they always were, but the “reality” they described was subject to modification, distortion and enhancement.

This was seen in the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Salman Rushdie; the alternative histories of Michael Chabon and Philip Roth; the modernist allegories of José Saramago; the political dystopias of Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro; the quasi-sci-fi scenarios of Jonathan Lethem and David Foster Wallace; the reality-stretching narratives of David Mitchell and Audrey Niffenegger; the urban mysticism of Haruki Murakami and Mark Z. Danielewski; the meta-reality musings of Paul Auster and Italo Calvino; the edgy futurism of J.G. Ballard and Iain Banks; and the works of hosts of other writers.

Of course, very few critics or academics linked these works to their pulp fiction predecessors. Cormac McCarthy might win a Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Road, a book whose apocalyptic
theme was straight out of the science fiction playbook. But no bookstore would dare to put this novel in the sci-fi section. No respectable critic would dare compare it to, say, I Am Legend (a novel very similar to McCarthy’s in many respects). Arbitrary divisions between “serious fiction” and “genre fiction” were enforced, even when no legitimate dividing line existed.

Only commercial considerations dictated the separation. Literary critics, who should have been the first to sniff out the phoniness of this state of affairs, seemed blissfully ignorant that anything was amiss.

There does seem to be a loosening of these constraints, however. Look at the mainstream success of Neil Gaiman (whose early work fits right into the lineup of authors mentioned above) or new writers like my friend G. Willow Wilson whose book Alif the Unseen is making serious waves.

True, books like the astonishing The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi aren’t going to get the same literary attention – but then again, maybe that’s a good thing. There’s definitely a perception that “hard” science fiction or “high” fantasy are not digestible by the mainstream (even though Lord of the Rings, Dune, and Harry Potter are among the most-read books of all time).

Bridge to Terabithia

I remember reading Bridge to Terabithia at that age where I too could immerse myself in my own worlds, where imagination and reality could still overlap, and adolescence was close enough to be almost here but not quite here yet. In other words, I was the age that Jess and Leslie were, and that was why it cut so deep. It was probably the first book I had ever read that really and truly made me feel so deeply, so much so that I almost threw the book away, it as it almost overwhelmed the me of then. Maybe reading that book was a trial on the path to being an adult, which is a trifle ironic given that the book is about the essence of childhood.

Around twenty years later, I saw the movie, and it does the book justice indeed. I’m afraid that the rest of this post won’t make much sense. Fair warning.

It’s odd to think how when we are that age, we take ourselves for granted. Much later in life we look back at our mid-twenties as our “youth” and dismiss our adolescent preteen selves as mere children, but there is a magic about us then, and the luckiest of us never fully extinguish that magic despite decades that follow of responsibility and toil. There’s such a deep current of love in this story, one that runs concurrently with a current of pain, and both are so essential. In many ways the creek beyond which lies Terabithia is the physical embodiment of love and pain – a gateway to a different world, but also a dangerous barrier. The bridge only comes later, something we are only capable of building once we have fully learnt the lesson, and then every time we cross it, so much more easily and without risk, we gradually forget the price we have paid.

There’s the otaku dreamgirl aspect of this story too, but the special quality of that friendship is such that is only works in the context of being young. Leslie isn’t an ordinary girl and you are meant to fall for her, to appreciate the way she looks at the world and makes it new, at the sheer force of will. But Jess is not ordinary either – a working class family on the edge of bankruptcy, no advantages or privileges or luxuries, forced to wear his sisters’ hand-me-down sneakers, he still somehow has a Talent that thrives and grows. The two of them are perfect, as they are and more so together, and it is fitting that they create Terabithia between them.

What is Terabithia? Is it childhood? Is it dreams, hope? Whatever it is, it is something that can only be reached by tapping into that something essential from our childhood. The Narnia stories put children front and center as heroes, but were never about childhood – Terabithia is much more honest and raw in that regard. What is the bridge?

There is probably no point in trying to describe how Terabithia makes you feel. It probably suffices to say that it makes you feel. It’s a movie that every adult should watch, every child should read, and every father should be inspired from to hope that their children are in some way like Leslie and Jess, and if so, to live vicariously through them for it.

not that there’s anything wrong with that

But turns out that Dumbledore played for the other team.

He certainly isn’t the first all-powerful wizard to have ambiguous sexual identity. Voldemort doesn’t have much interest in Bellatrix, after all. Gandalf was overly obsessed with his pipe. Raistlin may have had a daughter, but he faked affection for his own twin, so who knows? For that matter, look at Slartibartfast… I mean, fjords? come on.

Also, The Onion has its own take. incloseto putbacko!

A ‘Rip’ in Time

A childhood favorite author, Madeleine L’engle, most known to the likes of us for her “Wrinkle in Time” series, died–or as she might put it, Xed–last month at the human age of 88. I only know this because I started re-reading the series last month–for the first time since Aziz reminded me of it almost ten years ago–and looked her up out of curiosity. A more incredulous person would attribute it not to mere coincidence.

To anyone who’s never read this series, I urge you to do so. Yes, they are children’s books, but like many, they are packed with timeless scientific, philosophical, and humanistic principles. Space, time, creation, destruction, love, loathing, existence, perception, consciousness, identity, communication, interconnectedness, personal significance in an infinite cosmos…it’s all there, the intangible made tangible in these stories and characters.

The entire Quintet (I only thought there were three books!) was re-released this past May, so there’s no excuse. They include:

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wind in the Door

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Many Waters

An Acceptable Time

eye on the prize

I only have to stay spoiler-free until September, which is when this comes out:

hp_boxset.jpg

That’s the complete Harry Potter, books 1-7 in hardcover. It’s actually cheaper than buying the books individually on Amazon (which aside from WalMart has the best prices). This is going to be a collectible and hand me down for my daughters’ benefit as much as mine (5yrs old and 3mon old).