Vintage of Ink: a Good Year

"A man of ability, for the chief of his reading, should select such works as he feels beyond his own power to have produced."
William G.T. Shedd

It's December, the last month, the twilight of the year (how does that sound to you, Wagner?) - almost a whole year has gone by! I am convinced that time moves faster the older you get. Years did not seem to whirl by so quickly when I was a child. Not that I mind. That's the beauty of being a time-traveller, I suppose...

I've read a lot of books this year: twenty-nine. I should really like to be able to make that an even thirty, but I'm in the middle of The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, which requires pondering, and David Copperfield, which is enormous, so I don't think I will be able to add another book to my list until January. (Goodreads is well enough, I suppose, but if you want something done right you have to do it yourself, so I keep my own list.) I was introduced to Dorothy Sayers and read three of her works, I read The Scarlet Pimpernel twice (only counted it once), I read three new Rosemary Sutcliff books (new to me, anyway: The Shield Ring, Flame-Coloured Taffeta, Knight's Fee), charming new-comers to the book market Heartless and Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, I read Emma, my second Jane Austen novel (I'm so behind-hand on these things), and a number of essay collections by C.S. Lewis as well as J.R.R. Tolkien's delightful Roverandom. I read some romanish things like The Lays of Ancient Rome (which post of mine seems to have got an enormous number of page-views from Eastern Europe - I'm not sure what is up with that), Everyday Life in Roman and Anglo-Saxon Times, and The Roman Way - stodgy old stuff like that that I enjoy. I read Howl's Moving Castle, which was a hoot and a half, and Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday and Manalive, which boggled me immensely.

Lots of oddments of stories, I dare say. But this year was a good year as far as reading and writing went. Many of the books I read, fiction and non-fiction alike, lifted me and challenged me and taught me something new, or inspired something old, kindled or re-kindled thoughts in me all through the year. One of my biggest writing accomplishments was finishing the second draft of my novel Adamantine; another is the beginning of its companion novel Plenilune - and I could not have started it without many of the books I began and finished this year. I have already said before, the need for Plenilune has long been there, but I didn't reach what I call critical mass until this year in September when I finished the novel The Worm Ouroboros. (That book alone could have a whole post to itself.) Then after that came novels I had finished before it, The Shield Ring and Roverandom, Simon, Shakespeare's The Tempest, Perelandra, flocking around me and chittering excitedly like little Pixar minions with Adamantine looming sceptically in the background and Knight's Fee, one of my more recent conquests, proudly aloft over the others, "fair to see and slender as a racehorse." All of them went into the melting pot of my fevered imagination, heated and smelted and boiled down to the mere soupy brightness of the metal that I wanted and - tally ho! - I began writing Plenilune.

If you can find what in the world (take your pick which one) these novels have in common, you are doing better than I. Funny odd thing, isn't it, what all converges to inspire us? For me it has been a good year for convergence.

* * * * *

The fox seemed to deliberate for a few moments, looking away with the lamplight glassy in his eyes, as if to find the right words. His countenance was unusually doleful. "The Overlord," he began at last, slowly, consideringly, "is more than just a man with a title. He is more than a mere strategist or a high judge presiding over quarrels." He looked round at her, light breaking up against and throwing itself off the quicksilver mirror of his eyes. His voice was low and urgent, with a shiningness about it that made Margaret's heart quicken.

"The Overlord is Plenilune itself. He is its heart, he is its soul; he is the dark lodestone that lies at the core of everything."

"A dark lodestone indeed," said Margaret after a brief, heavy quiet, "would Rupert be."

The fox grinned up at her, all his little white teeth showing. "A dark lodestone indeed, which cannot find true north. It is a good joke," he added, his body jigging a little to the quickness of his foxy breathing, "don't you think?"


8 ripostes:

  1. I'm so far ahead of you on sheer mass, yet so very far behind on quality of content. I'm closing in on 60 books, but most of them are sheer fluff/garbage.

    I'll post my list for the year once I know I'm done, but that will likely be 1/1/2012 since I find myself up reading late the night of even self-imposed deadlines.

  2. I have a feeling that one day you''l be a timeless classic, Jenny, up there with Austen and Sutcliff, Lewis and Tolkien and Twain :)

  3. Oh, Jenny! Why must you *do* this to me? And why do I put up with it? Why on earth do I flock eagerly to each of your posts only to expect to be pen-slain and yet unable to resist it? I love your writing, dear. It's so very...soulful. And how do you make your dialog so regal? Mine is quick and snappy and commonplace...yours has antiquity about it. :D
    I am not sure how many books I've read this year, though I am keeping a list. I have accomplished several of Dickens, though, as well as Wuthering Heights, and some other great ones that have been on my list. :)

  4. Ah! Dialogue. For a moment, Rachel, I really wasn't sure how to answer you. Most questions thrown at me about "how do you do such?" are almost impossible for me to answer. But I find I can answer this one. My dialogue sounds the way it does because that is the way I talk inside. That is my language, a kind of speaking chant, words whose cadence make a kind of melody with your heartstrings. And I learned that language from Rosemary Sutcliff, and Rudyard Kipling, and Lew Wallace, and George MacDonald, and E.R. Eddison, and others like them. I learned it so long ago when I was a child that I'm long since no longer repeating passages, like a child learning Grammar - I know the language now myself. Daddy says that when you can think in a language you are fluent in it. I think in this language. "It is mine to me."

    I'm not sure who it reflects on and how, Uncle Raymond. You have read a greater quantity of books this year than I have, but I wonder if that is only because, if I don't like a book, I don't persevere in finishing it. At least you finish, most times. Or you are very good at bluffing. I find I am very gullible in these matters...

    Gwyn, I was at first deeply flattered to hear your remark, but then it dawned on me that all of the authors you mentioned, while I ardently aspire to be as good as them, are all dead. My husband assured me that most of them attained fame in their lifetime...except Sutcliff...whom I am most like... All in all, I'm not sure whether to be flattered or fear for my life. :P

  5. So many of my favorites listed here...

    It's the end of the year, and looking back I HAVE read some good books [some better then I ever dared hope], but I'm just now at year's end delving into RICH literature, namely such as that challenges, amuses, DELIGHTS me to no end. And most of all, teaches me what TRUE writing is. Who might these authors be, eh? The likes of Lew Wallace, C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, Gene Stratton-Porter, and soon Rosemary Sutcliff. AND others still waiting on my bookshelf. [Can't wait to get at 'em!] It pains me to realize that I COULD'VE been long reading these authors had I truly wished to, but 'better later, then never' as they say. :) Love what you said here: "taught me something new, or inspired something old, kindled or re-kindled thoughts in me all through the year." Agree, agree!

    Admittedly, I trust enough now of your writing and recommendations to realize that when you mention a particular book, it's worth checking out. Such as 'The Worm Ouroboros'. Never heard, but I WILL keep an eye out for it.

  6. Thank you for your answer, Jenny! It helped me understand better why I can't write how I sometimes wish I could write. In essence, why I can't write like Lewis and Tolkien and those others. It is because their language is not, as you quoted, "Mine to me." I don't think in that way. I identify with it, but it is not my language. My language is something more like A.A. Milne, if I had to choose. I am always thinking in misplaced capitals and quaint witticisms. :P

  7. I think I am generally given to a superfluity of words and a haziness of meaning, as even I am not always sure what it is I mean to say, so I am very glad I was helpful in my explanation. It seems straight-forward enough, if you put it that way...though you're not alone in wishing you could write in other styles. I do too. I think all authors do, if they are not proud. That's why we "borrow" from each other. :P

    Wallace! Lewis! Austen! Tolkien! Gene Stratton-Porter! Rosemary Sutcliff! Late is certainly better than never, Eva; I'm so glad you have come upon these jewels. They may be dead, but boy, for being dead people, they can sure transport you. Welcome to my world. I hope my friends will treat you well as they treated me.

  8. I'm eight books shy of my goal for 2011 which was 69 books. I'd guess that it was a mix of fluff and more meaty meals, but this close to the end of the year I'm looking for much shorter reads! I'm currently working on a mystery and a Lamplighter book called Daring Deeds.

    I haven't heard of two of those Rosemary Sutcliff books, so I'll have to find them somewhere! I believe I have read the Shield Ring. Did you enjoy Perelandra? I tried reading that trilogy once and didn't make it through.