jenschmitadam: (mask)
So, I've finally gotten around to finishing A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. I've had this book on my shelves for YEARS and I've started it at least three times, but I couldn't take the relentless intensity and ran away every time. Martin doesn't pull any punches ~ his world is full of danger, intrigue, and violence and he never flinches. His characters face the full brunt of risk, and there's no security. Safety is only an illusion. As a reader, I like knowing that even if bad things *appear* to happen, things will always turn out right in the end. (Yes, I am devoted to HEA.) As a reader, I take comfort in the fact that most authors only flirt with tragedy ~ bad things might happen, but there is almost always redemption and reward to follow. Martin offers no such promise. This series is brutal, grim, and uncertain.

But it's also beautiful. Incredibly beautiful.

As a writer, I can read with a certain level of distance. It used to frustrate me, this recognition that I can't sink into a story effortlessly anymore. I question everything ~ craft, motive, structure, theme ~ but in many ways I have a far greater appreciation for story, too.

In this case, that distance has made all the difference and has given me the... fortitude?... to read and fully enjoy Martin's series.

A Game of Thrones
is brilliant. Martin uses multiple PoV, with each chapter told from a different character's perspective, and yet instead of fracturing the narrative he manages to weave each thread smoothly into the fabric of the story as a whole. Every character has a distinctive voice, so there is no sense of echo or redundancy. And his timing is flawless ~ Martin doesn't have to explain or describe everything. He leaves some things off the page, and yet we're given just enough to fill in the gaps so the story flows perfectly and the sense of tension, suspense, and drama is maintained.

This world is complex without feeling contrived. The characters feel authentic and dimensional. Moral ambiguity adds a layer of credibility and interest as we watch the characters wrangle with their consciences (if they have them) and the consequences of their choices (even if they don't.)

I've just started A Clash of Kings. I find myself marvelling at Martin's craftsmanship while wondering what will happen next. I dread the next page, and yet I can't wait to turn it.

jenschmitadam: (Default)
WHITE SWAN, BLACK SWAN by Adrienne Sharp

This is a loosely connected series of short stories revolving around professional ballet. While each story is self-contained, some characters make encore appearances and over the course of the book a chaotic meta-narrative emerges.

These are stories of broken romances, broken dancers, broken hearts, broken dreams. And yet each story captures and reflects the beauty, elegance and sheer passion of ballet.

While the stories themselves are fictional (though famous dancers like Balanchine, Nureyev, Fonteyn, Farrell, Godunov and Baryshnikov appear as characters), they glitter with an intimate authenticity that renders them deeply compelling and unforgettable. Although they reveal the tarnished edges of the gilded ballet ideal and crumble the illusions of perfection, what remains at the end is the pure heart of the dance. Despite the bleak tone, the bitterness and regret and despair that plagues some of the characters throughout the stories, their dedication to dance fills the pages with a core of beauty and hope.

Sharp's writing is beautiful and her sense of timing is quite clever ~ she lends an appropriate rhythm to every story; whether it's the speed and staccato of a grand allegro or the lilting grace of an adagio, every story feels like a dance.


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jenschmitadam

May 2011

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