When I was in college I dated a girl, T., who would read while walking around the house, her nose literally in a book as she drifted from room to room, occasionally reaching a hand out to find a wall or an open doorway. I found this almost as endearing as I found her pale green eyes.
We were both the type of person who preferred to read something — anything — while eating, and so we each knew the back copy of the Grapenuts cereal box by heart.
Her tastes in literature were somewhat more highbrow than mine, but we complemented each other well. She introduced me to Dorothy L. Sayers and Ursula K. LeGuin, I introduced her to Harlequin Romances and Edward Gorey.
She was a Medieval Studies major, so she could do nifty parlor tricks like recite Chaucer in the original tongue and settle arguments about the etymology of the word “the.”
We had arguments about things like that at Mount Holyoke. It’s kind of hard to explain.
We were sort of jointly introduced to the works of Guy Gavriel Kay during the three years we were together (yes, that equals “forever” in college) by a somewhat snarky roommate we had for a while who was also an Medieval Studies major, but not quite as endearing.
So one day she suggested we read Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry, which is his stab at an archetypal-mythology high fantasy trilogy. He wrote it right after he finished helping Christopher Tolkien edit The Silmarillion, which you have to admit is a pretty nice line on one’s resume. (Although I can’t say I found The Silmarillion to be particularly readable, I also don’t particularly blame the posthumous editors for that.)
So Guy Gavriel Kay became the one author I would occasionally visit the SF/Fantasy aisles for. He doesn’t write often, because he writes these epic books that require him to do years of “research” in the South of France, so I would check for a new book about once a year, or when I thought of it.
Well the other day there it was, a new hardcover by GGK. And I bought it and went home and inhaled it and now I might have to read them all again.
It’s nice to have a favorite author like this, who is writing now, rather than finding someone like Dorothy L. Sayers, who is awesome but dead. With her, I can’t wonder what is she going to write about next? because she may still be writing but she sure isn’t still getting published in North America.
With Kay I can reread Tigana and be back in that awful summer that T. and I broke up, a year after college, bawling my eyes out at the final scene in my bedroom in that awful apartment I was only in long enough for my new roommate to insult my posters and steal my Birkenstocks.
I can reread A Song for Arbonne and be in Venice, Los Angeles, with my old freshman-year roommate, who took me in after I chased T. across the country, only to find myself chased by someone else. A more awkward threesome you will never see, so I hightailed it out of San Francisco and hid out with Rebecca in Venice, reading Arbonne and trying to make sense of the Pacific Ocean, which I thought bore no resemblence whatsoever to the Atlantic.
The Lions of Al-Rassan and Sailing to Sarantium both came out when I was in grad school, struggling with the reality that geology grad students are not generally encouraged to take classes in Romantic Poetry, that geology TAs who quote Keats are thought of as odd, and that maybe, actually, I didn’t belong in geology grad school after all if all I wanted to take was literature classes — and stupid Syracuse University was so head-up-assedly PoMo that it didn’t even OFFER straight-up lit classes, only Deconstruction of Form classes, whatever the fuck good THAT does anybody.
And of course now this means that any time I reread his latest, Isabel, I will remember this spring, when I was working so hard at a job I love and trying to get the money together for grad school — for a much more suitable degree this time around — and knitting socks and gazing out at the lake from my little house surrounded by pine needles.
Personally, I think Tigana beats the pants off any of his other books, but I’ll wait until you’ve read any of them to debate it with you. Start with the Fionavar Tapestry, which you can take out of the library as soon as I’m done rereading it.