Monday 26 July 2010

Quote of the day + assorted Viriconium commentary

This quote from the Westeros forum, in a thread about M. John Harrison's wonderful Viriconium sequence, made me laugh:
"But I agree that the last story in the Viriconium collection left me feeling as if someone had tried to beat me to death with a rubber chicken."
I can understand completely where the poster is coming from; the last story in the sequence - A Young Man's Journey to Viriconium - is bizarre and hard to fathom. As is, admittedly, much of the Viriconium material, not that this stops it from being staggeringly good at times.

Anyway, the thread threw up some Viriconium essays that Larry wrote some time ago, and slipped under my radar since I'd not read Viriconium back then. The first is a very good examination of The Pastel City, the first 'novel' from the Viriconium sequence:

"As I read The Pastel City, I found myself slowing down to read and re-read almost every single paragraph. There is a richness in Harrison's prose that makes reading each sentence a pleasure. Look again at the passage quoted above. Say it aloud, listening for the rhythms. There is a music of sorts in Harrison's writing, a music that is haunting and seems to come from a place within us that isn't a discoverable, tangible country."
It's pleasing to see someone actually focus on the novel's prose, and give it the appreciation it deserves. M. John Harrison is a figure that evokes hostility in a lot of genre fans, many of whom appear to have decided - rather foolishly, in my humble opinion - that his books must be shit because he's quite outspoken about the genre: "Isn't he the dude that said worldbuilding is for nerds? OMG HE MUST BE A DICKHEAD." A comparison has even been made with Terry Goodkind, which is laughable (for many reasons, but mainly because Harrison can actually write). I just think it's a shame that so many people have missed out on Viriconium simply because they've been upset by something Harrison has said. Sure, it's not for everyone. Yes, much of it is incomprehensible. But it's also wonderful at times, and the prose is sublime. Say what you like about Harrison - and people are never shy to - but you can't deny that the guy is a wonderful wordsmith. He also makes a lot of interesting points about the nature of epic fantasy in the pages of Viriconium - check out Larry's essay for more information.

Larry's second essay, on A Storm of Wings, can be found here. My own review of Viriconium is here.

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