Monday, April 10, 2006

Unknown Territory

Now, I'm guilty of using a variety of metaphors when it comes to reading. There is the metaphor of eating, which I usually apply when I mention my penchant for really thick fantasy novels - I liken them to slabs of meat that can satisfy my appetite the way no skinny chapbook or hors d'oeuvre short story can.

There is the metaphor of digging, usually used negatively to books that were too light and fluffy (they flew away like light sand from my preverbial shovel, shattering in the wind) or too turgid and slow (think thick, gravelly mud mixed with molasses) that need to be "slogged" through until I finally reach the door at the end and can run away to a better book.

Today, though, when I am dealing with starting a new book by a new author, I'll deal with the road metaphor. You've all heard the cliche: "It's the journey that counts, not the destination" (which is what they usually tell you when you lose something you've worked really hard on). Well, it's actually pretty accurate when dealing with books.

I'm reading a new book now, Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, a massive 800+ page tome that I picked up after finishing China Mieville's Iron Council which had one of the laziest, least satisfying endings of any book I've ever read (but more on that once I catch up with my book reviews). By the end of Iron Council, and by "end", I mean when I was reaching the last pages of the novel before The Lamest Conclusion of All Time, the track was pretty straight - a sidewalk, actually, that I would walk down comfortably and with some speed without having to double back and re-read passages just to make sure I read them correctly.

That's what reading new books by different authors is like - it ends as a sidewalk, but it begins as something different. Manoeuvering through Quicksilver, the path of the narrative is cluttered and treacherous - I could turn an ankle or trip, and often I've come to a confusing bend and have found myself reading back to figure out what's going on. I've acclimatised myself to China Mieville's unique style of writing, and now that I'm on to Neal Stephenson, I have to wade through unfamiliar turns of phrase in order to comfortably navigate the narrative again.

So it's slow going, but once I'm through the first 150 pages or so the path will smoothen out until I get to the end. And if the book turns out to be good, and I move on to The Confusion, then I won't have to go through another brambling path, because it's the same author.

I know, I kinda pointless post - but I thought it'd be could to try and describe my process of reading.

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