Monday, February 10, 2014

Apples to...

We constantly make comparisons. To describe. To explain. To just make sense of the world.

This week, I've wondered if perhaps we doth compareth too much.

Instance #1: I'd finished reading Sarah J. Maas's sequel to Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight. I enjoyed it, and I felt the pacing and character development were stronger than the first. (See? Already comparing, this time apple to apple.) Then I tried to describe the series to a friend. "It's a lot like Kristin Cashore's Bitterblue," I said, because I knew she'd read that series. And suddenly, my enthusiasm for Crown chilled. The similarities struck me, and suddenly Crown didn't feel as fresh. I was thrilled with it when I put it down; why did I have to ruin it by comparing it to something else?

Instance #2: I'm three books in to Jonathan Maberry's Rot and Ruin series, and last night I watched the mid season premier of  The Walking Dead. The husband and I were asking the normal sort of questions, primarily why don't the jawless zombies attack? If the brain controls their movements, wouldn't they still attack, even without arms or jaws? I mentioned how in Maberry's zombie world, it's related to the reflex of the jaw muscles. Of course this brought to mind comparisons between Maberry's main character Benny, who is just a little older than The Walking Dead's Carl. But the more striking contrast between the two is the emphasis on religion in the world of Rot and Ruin. I like how different the two worlds are, but I also wondered if Kirkman will eventually address those same religious issues, and how I will feel about it when he does. Again, comparison left me feeling less connected with both stories, rather than more.

Instance #3: I've just started reading Maggie Stiefvater's The Dream Thieves. Stiefvater's prose is magical, and I read her books in equal parts a writer studying craft and a reader searching to connect with a great story. In only a few chapters, she's weaving these unbelievable metaphors: 

He always said Ronan differently from other words. As if he had meant to say another word entirely -- something like knife or poison or revenge -- and then swapped it out for Ronan's name at the last moment. 

[The leather bands] tasted like gasoline, a flavor that struck Ronan as both sexy and summery.

The Gray Man hated his current rental car. He got the distinct impression it hadn't been handled enough by humans when it was young, and now would never be pleasant to be around.   

...the buildings tired but tidy as library books.

So you see, Stiefvater's vision is amazing. Similes and metaphors grace nearly every page. I'm truly glad that none were left on the cutting room floor, and yet... sometimes they slow down the narrative. It feels wrong to complain about too much of a good thing. But I guess maybe I'd find these descriptions even more precious if they were more rare.

My goal for the rest of the month is to step back and see things as they are, on their own merits.

Music for today: Love is Blindness by Jack White