Cork or Stone?

I’ve put down the Deryni Rising book. I gave it about 50 pages but it just didn’t grab me like I’d hoped (feared?). A shame, really. There’s something about an old paperback, recovered from a used book store, with its cheesy covers, stained page-edges and teeny tiny type that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy with nostalgia. But the book itself started off very generic, with a king murdered, making way for an untested son, amidst a tenuously united realm with scheming dukes and witches about to beset them all. There was regular cheese, too, but of the mustache-twirling variety. And then the head-hopping within scenes. Urk. I have a hard time with this, only managed to enjoy it in Dune, but I’m starting to suspect that was more a habit of the 70s instead of particular authors. Still, I tried. Went as far as I could go before I couldn’t justify pushing myself through it when I have a gigantic pile of books that whisper my name and shake their pages suggestively at me.

So I switched over to Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay. And boom. No struggling, no fighting, I was down and under and in and gone.

And it got me to thinking, when I could raise my head up from this new book, about reading and books. At least how I experience them.

These stories. To me, they are either cork stories or they are stone stories.

Cork stories bob along, unable to pierce the surface tension between air and water. You may be able to see something in the shadows beneath, but there is no way to get there and your not quite sure it isn’t a shoe or old tin can. You can force it, either holding the cork under water or tying a weight to it, but it will never go in of its own accord. It becomes a miserable experience for you both.

Stone stories are effortless. The moment they are let go over the water, they fall, they splash in — a cold shock that makes you take notice — and then dive, dive, dive, until they land at the bottom. The water is your world now, with the mermaids and the sharks, the sunken ships and their lost gold, and you wouldn’t dare wish to be anywhere else. They will stay with you, stone stories, even after you surface.

Anyways, Ysabel. Loving it. The story is told from the view point, so far, of a 15-year-old Canadian boy in Provence with his father and the secret world, an older story, that he’s stumbled into. As I was reading it, besides thinking about nonsense things like cork and stone, I was also admiring at how real the characters seemed, how utterly genuine and human and interesting they were.

I recently read another book with a young protagonist (no, I won’t mention which), where I had deep issues with how the character was presented. The character was sweet, pretty, smart, loved, and perfect in that annoying sort of way. She doesn’t sound real, feels like she lacks depth. The writer had taken pains to mimic adolescence — was up on the latest tech and social tools (sorta), kept referencing Canadian bands for her to listen to — but all of her movements felt superficial. A doll moving in a diorama.

Yet in Ysabel I never once doubt the main character — he is young but wise in the way young people can be briefly when they aren’t trying and he’s also dumb in the same way sometimes, accidentally, as he feels his way to adult hood in the same trial and error way we all do. His voice, his thoughts, his actions all ring true. I am no longer thinking about the character or the story, I am in it, happily gone.

(Which makes it damn difficult for me to step back from a good book to learn from it. My book journal is full of notes about what I think goes wrong in a book, but when it comes to one I loved the page is nothing more then gushing and squealing. I keep those books, though, and give away the former.)

This should have been posted yesterday, but I let it sit overnight. Glad I did. Tweaked a few things. Tonight is the Hypergraphics Meeting (Yay!) and that means I am heading in to work early to type up notes and try to get ahead. Good morning, world!

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2 thoughts on “Cork or Stone?

    1. Steph

      Which part, the cork verses stone or the not being able to study a good book for what I can learn from it?

      I agree that the metaphor may not be a perfect one. My blog posts tend to have a strong stream-of-consciousness feel to theme at the best of times. 🙂

      To expand, when I read I want to be utterly submerged. A cork story never let’s me sink, so I chase stones. And someday, I hope to write a story that somenone else can sink into, too.

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