Derik Badman's Journal

2020-05-02 09:31

Finished up Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative by Jane Alison last night though I ended up kind of skimming by the end. The introduction set me up for something that I don't feel like the subsequent chapters followed through on in an engaging way. A lot of analysis of individual stories or novels for theme and notif and then she applies the design pattern in question as a metaphor to the text. But it all feels rather weakly argued and the difference between many of the patterns seems arbitrary. I much like the idea of thinking about alternate ways of organizing texts beyond a conventional narrative arc, but this book did not give me much to really think about in that regards.

Also finished up Delany's Neveryona which in many ways is not organized around a traditional narrative arc. Pryn, the protagonist, leaves her home in the mountains, travels to the big city, travels to the land in the south, heads back to the city, the end. There is a moment that sort of acts as a climax in the penultimate chapter, but it is not really the result of a great build-up. It is sort of a resolution of a mystery that stretched across the novel and a few of the preceding stories in the series, but it also creates its own mystery as to what actually happens to Pryn, what is real, what is not. In a sense, it is the resolution of a quest. Pryn is told a story in the first chapter (by one of the many protagonists from the previous stories that she meets) about a treasure. In the end she sort of maybe finds that treasure. But in between the treasure or the quest is not really her goal or motivating factor or even a driver of the narrative events.

The novel is much more organized like a bildungsroman and a travelogue. Pryn gains knowledge and experience; she sees parts of the world; she meets all different sorts of people; she has a variety of experiences. In the end, is there resolution? No. But I expect part of the point is there is not resolution to the many situations and ideas and problems that she is faced with. It's a fascinating novel in a fascinating series, that is so unlike any other sword & sorcery or fantasy fiction. I wish there were more work like it (but I think there is not).

Sitting outside on the porch today, writing on my laptop and enjoying what is turning out to be a beautiful sunny day. The birds fly by, the birds sing, dogs bark in the distance (and not so distance, as our new neighbors have a little dog). I spent the morning catching up on reading articles and have no plans for the afternoon but to... write? read? watch a movie? I am going to do a bit of RPG planning, as after we finish the second part of Eric's The Sprawl adventure tomorrow, we are, if there is time, going to try Mausritter, a simple game in a Mouseguard type world. I'm hoping to run it a bit... improvisationally. Roll up some hexes and NPCs and plot ideas, and a few simple maps from Alex Schroeder's Textmapper.

Some reading...

A really good interview with Frank Santoro about his comic Pittsburgh one of my favorite books from last year.

A.S. Hamrah moved from n+1 to The Baffler, which disappointed me as I actually read the former, and his new column is up. No one writes movie reviews like him (his collection The Earth Dies Streaming is well worth reading), he rarely tells you clearly if he liked a movie or not, he just lets you decide based on what he has to say about it.