Friday, December 30

surface area

I can't remember the first time I read this trilogy. all I do remember is hearing about it and thinking it sounded full of bland archetypes floating around in some watery, boring plot. but then I picked it up. and its fabulous, twirly sentences whisked me away into Gormenghast, where nothing is watery or boring at all. it was friend Chris who told me about these books. in his words, is the most underrated piece of literature on the planet. "appallingly underrated," he says. and "It is literary masterpiece and a work of art. I don't think I've ever read anything else in which the characters and the setting have been painted so vividly."
not many books are worth owning, according to me. excluding the textbooks (which I may or may not keep), I can fit all the books I own onto one small shelf. His Dark Materials. 1984. The Chronicles of Narnia. The Phantom Tollbooth. and now this gorgeous paperback edition of The Gormenghast Trilogy. mm. (thanks, dear friend Chris. thou art most awesome.)

to judge me by my bookshelves, I might not look like such a great lover of books. really I'm just the kind who prefers to borrow them. it's easier that way.

lately I keep thinking about appearances. we all know that things aren't always as they seem. but that doesn't mean the split between what is and what seems is very clear-cut at all. things that seem true might be true, or they might not really be true, or they might be partly true, or sometimes true, or sort of true. relatively true. [flashback... hmm.] most of all, I wonder about how I must seem to all the people who are not me (such vanity is fairly normal, right?). I suppose I'll never know exactly. but maybe someday there will be a way to at least find out how much of the seeming is real and how much isn't.

I also wonder how much of me and my point of view depends upon other people. sometimes I feel completely tied up in the way other people think, or what I imagine they'll think, or what they seem to be thinking. is that a flaw? my current thoughts (or are they justifications?) compare the relationships between my personality and everyone else's with the relationships between words in a dictionary. just like words get used to define each other, your perspectives and their perspectives and the whole world's perspective all get used to define mine.

as long as I'm aware of all this mushy relativism, I should be able to handle that, right? depth perception. books and covers. second impressions. mhm. vivid or watery or whatever else it seems at first, the book or the word, the person or the situation will usually have more to it. don't stop reading.


Chris said...

Oh geez. There should be a rule, no quoting anything Chris said a billion years ago. Maybe I thought I was writing for the Telegraph or something.

Appalling indeed, sir. Indeed.

But some nicely articulated thoughts there! I like the dictionary metaphor.

I'm glad you got the book in one piece.

Janeheiress said...

I seem remember vaguely hearing the word Gormenghast at some point in life, but I had no idea what it was. I did a little wikipedia research and though, and I'm going to have to borrow it from you! I told my sister that another author called it "the only example of Gothic expressionism in English Literature", and she said she's sold too!

amelia c said...

oh, is that a rule? I thought about quoting a lot more of old stuff... old conversations and such from way back. (I was searching around trying to remind myself what my original opinion actually was.) it's crazy how long ago all that really was...

and of course you must borrow it, Mel! it's so much better than it sounds-- at least that's how I felt about it. it was a lovely birthday present. :)

Nic said...


And I, too, enjoyed the dictionary metaphor. I often think about the same things. But I still don't think I really want to know what other people really think. Most of the time. Although sometimes it would be very helpful...

I wish I was as controlled as you when it comes to buying books. My room is currently like a ball pool, only with books instead of balls. And minus the screaming children.

Chris said...

Well, there is one screaming child.

amelia c said...

see, my room is liable to become a book-pool but only with blank journals. those are my true weakness. I probably have three times as many journals as normal books.