The Stone Giants

"What dost thou in this living tomb?"
Matthew Arnold

This is really the sort of thing you expect from Abigail, I fancy.  Trying to pin my brain down to any sort of really serious research is like a cat trying to pin down the reflection off your watch-face.  Abigail is much more diligent and, in general, much more concrete-minded than I am, which means I have to work against my nature to store up treasures of fact in my memory.  She loves biographies, and I don't really.  She loves heavy, many-paged histories and slogs through them much the same way I slog through thirty minutes of exercises on a Monday morning. 

But there is one "biography" type that I do like, and that is archaeology.  I don't know why, and to this day the bizarre truth of the matter still baffles me.  The sport is full of crinkled tomes with black-and-white snapshots: not the sort of thing that would naturally lend itself a fitting helpmeet to my colourful imagination.  And yet the science, born in an era full of romanticism, still retains an ineluctable magic among its sun-bleached columns that enchants me - and that, most likely, is why I am perfectly willing to snatch up a copy of Paul MacKendrick's works and snuggle in tight for 500+ pages' worth of black-and-white snapshots and text.  I love the alchemical magic of coaxing potsherds out of the earth and building a civilization on them.  And archaeology is just that: not just the tedious, perhaps sometimes dull, work of moving mind-boggling tonnages of earth off God alone knows how many superimposed cities that have struggled upward, been crushed in the course of a few days, risen again only to be crushed into oblivion, but the steady piecing together of physical artefact, legend, and the nature of man which has not changed much in two fistfuls or so of millennia.  It is a kind of resurrection, and, ergo, makes for a thrilling read. 

I mentioned on The Penslayer near the beginning of my work on Gingerune that the transition from Plenilune to Gingerune was proving to be difficult because the social spheres were so diametrically different.  I was in danger of giving myself whiplash and it is only very recently (about 99,000 words in) that I am beginning to feel I have enough of a mental image of Gingerune's world that I can finally begin to bring it across adequately to the reader.  I spoke of having to "fall in love" with Gingerune's world.  I am beginning to do that.
The architectonic aim is not grandiosity, as in Egypt, or subordination to a central megaron, as at Mycenae or Tiryns, but variety of line and color, achieved by facades with setbacks, terraces and flat roofs of various heights, the play of light and shadow on white gypsum stucco, blue-gray local stone, red cypress beams and columns; the alteration of light and darkness in propylons, light wells, peristyles, porticoes, and open courts of various shapes and sizes. (MacKendrick, The Greek Stones Speak)
Compared to its topic and size, I veritably tore through Christos G. Doumas' work Thera: Pompeii of the Ancient Aegean; I am now about a third of the way through The Greek Stones Speak, having begun it a week ago.  Maps, charts, black-and-white snapshots, dates, names, myths, stone-types, building styles, pottery genres, languages, are crowded together in my head.  My dreams are becoming painted with the flamboyant reds and blues that the Minoan civilization adored; the buildings I blink through disjointedly in my sleep are full of light wells and sudden dog-legs, lavishly frescoed with naturalistic imagery.  Like Sir Arthur Evans, my imagination is tumbling heels over head through a civilization that outpaced the rest of the world during its day.  As is the case with people, it has taken me time to get to know the time and place of Gingerune and to fashion a relationship with it, but now I love it - which is the first step toward teaching you to love it too.

if thou hast cross'd the sea to-ward the east;
if thou hast set thy prow into the dawn;
if thou hast reached as far as man hast reached
and, onward, gone as far as man hast gone;
beneath the far-flung rays of Greekish suns
there lies, upon a wind-swept foaming sea,
a land from which the ancient legends run
to tell a sight that, like tides, shall draw thee - 
a shining place, shaped as the crescent moon
and in the dawn-light white with gypsum-stone,
whose fig and olive trees dance to the tune
of sea and wind and lonesome seabird's moan.
if thou hast cross'd the sea to Thera's shore
hast seen a land of ages gone before.

4 ripostes:

  1. I must admire you, Jenny, for I find alchemy a slogging business to work through, and tend to lean towards Abigail's enjoyments: biographies greatly intrigue me (Benjamin Franklin's was a favorite). Although I must admit, I'll choose Lewis or some fantasy novel over biography or history if I'm feeling especially sluggish. One can't continually soak up knowledge without a respite now and then. ;)

  2. I've a friend who loves Archaeology and anything to do with dead civilizations. I had never thought, though, that it might help in creating a world. It is great that you've found the inspiration you need, and sometimes black and white photos are perfect, enabling us to add in the colours we so wish.

  3. I have to say that when I first saw this post in my feed, I thought, "Doctor Who!" but that's beside the point.
    I tend to do my research haphazardly when I realize that I don't know something that I need (which is why my novels will never be classified as 'historical fiction.') and on the computer. But I think I would rather like browsing through thick books filled with dust and dead memories...problem is that I don't like having to search extensively to find the books I need.
    Archaeology is fascinating. I think that if I didn't already have eight different things I want to be when I grow up, I would want to be an archaeologist. I think it's awful fun to be a backwards archaeologist, and build my own civilizations (and then kill them and bury them, for other characters to stumble upon, of course) I haven't read much on the Minoans, but a friend of mine was writing a play set in Minoa, and from what I read, they were a very unique culture.
    Anyways, that long ramble to say, Lovely post, and good luck with your work!

  4. I have never been much into archaeology, but for a time I remember Sarah was quite obsessed with those sort of things, and just for fun I like to collect odd little facts and things which sometimes can be great when we are writing stories ^_^. When I was 5 years old, I got to visit the Egyptian Pyramids which was quite amazing seeing all those yellow stones ancient ruins, even though I was quite small.

    I am piqued by this Minoa business in your novel, Jenny, not that I know much about about it ;).