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The god’s point of view July 19, 2008

Posted by Peter Hornby in books.
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I was back in comfort book territory this morning. One of my favourite book sequences is “The Dark is Rising”, a five book fantasy series by Susan Cooper, written over a decade or so in the sixties and seventies. The stories weave British myth and legend into a narrative centred round Will Stanton, an boy who awakens on his eleventh birthday to the gradual realisation that he is an Old One, a timeless and immortal warrior in the eternal battle between the Dark and the Light. It’s an enormously powerful series, superbly written.

The fourth book, “The Grey King” is set in North Wales, and involves a series of encounters with the powers of the Dark who would impede Will’s progress in fulfilling his quest. It’s maybe the most satisfying of the five books, bringing in Arthurian mythology and Welsh myth and legend, and mixing it with A Boy and His Dog.

I’d recommend that you try these books, especially since I started on my latest pass through the series after getting halfway through C.S. Lewis’ “The Magician’s Nephew” before putting it aside in annoyance at its trite and patronising tone. Life’s too short for Narnia, I’m afraid. But time spent with Susan Cooper is never wasted.

Still, what I wanted to think about in this post was not the books, particularly, but something that occurred to me while I was reading “The Grey King” this morning. The Grey King (or Brenin Llwyd, as the Welsh would have it) is a great power of the Dark who has a somewhat amorphous existence in the high fastnesses of Cader Idris (Arthur’s Seat), and manifests occasionally as a huge ghostly figure. So, there’s a point in “The Grey King” where he has a conversation with our hero Will. Will’s goal is to awaken the Sleepers, who will form a part of the upcoming battle with the Dark. The Grey King’s goal is to stop him.

I was reading the passage, and it struck me that this interaction was written from Will’s perspective. Of course, you say, it would have to be, since Will is the figure around whom the story is woven. But how would it be to write about the conversation from the point of view of the Grey King? He has motives, he takes action, he makes decisions, he has conversations with humans. How would you go about writing a story where the point of view is that of a god? I don’t mean something like Zelazny’s Amber series, where the protagonists are god-like, but are really just humans with secret sauce, But the point of view of a god must be completely alien – maybe not subject to time or space, maybe constrained in ways we can’t dream of, explicitly non-human. How would you go about rewriting the interaction between The Grey King and Will Stanton -but from the Grey King’s perspective?

I have no clue, but I’m musing on the idea.

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Losing a beloved dog July 14, 2008

Posted by Peter Hornby in personal.
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Orac, who writes the essential Respectful Insolence blog, is a surgeon/scientist who is possibly the internet’s premier debunker of pseudo-medical junk. Orac is also a wonderful writer. Never was this displayed to better effect than in this morning’s eulogy for his beloved dog Echo, who died of cancer on Friday. Go read it, it’s just heartrending.

Lots of tears in the comments, and not a few from me, someone who is not normally given to such things. Part of the the reason is that Echo is almost an identical twin of my family’s dog Peppi, a gorgeous black mostly-Labrador who was my responsibility as a teenager. The similarity is more than physical. Peppi was as good-natured a dog as it’s possible to imagine. The image of Echo sleeping on the bed, and steadily wriggling so that by morning she has most of the bed to herself, is one which is also part of my memory of Peppi. And, oh boy, did she love rolling in cow manure! She wasn’t treated to corn on the cob, mainly since in England I don’t believe we’d heard of it. But she would go crazy for what we would call “bun cases”, which doesn’t translate too well from the English, but refers to the little paper cups muffins are baked in. She preferred the bun cases to the buns.

Peppi arrived in our family as a tiny puppy when I was about eleven. She lived to be an old lady, and died happy, I think. I’m now fifty-three, and old and grey. But her memory is still strong within me, three decades after she passed out of my life.

Orac has my deepest sympathy.

Sad day for hummingbirds July 10, 2008

Posted by Peter Hornby in laguna beach, local, personal.
2 comments

I’m afraid that the hummingbird babies didn’t make it.  Lorraine was inspecting the nest this morning, and found them both dead.   Our best guess is that something happened to mama, and the chicks weren’t quite ready to fend for themselves.

Sad day indeed.

Hummingbird babies July 7, 2008

Posted by Peter Hornby in laguna beach, local, personal, Uncategorized.
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I suppose the gestation period of a hummingbird isn’t very long. Whatever, it seems that nature has taken its course and the two eggs we saw only three weeks ago have turned into these two hungry little critters. It won’t be long before they’re off and investigating the world around them. Certainly the nest won’t hold them for much longer.