Cool! At this very moment, when I went to check my blog, Stephen’s Chirographum was in my BlogSnob box.
I love coincidence.
Now if I could only get rid of the sudden striking pain through the right side of my brain…
Again, I finished the book before I could blog it: Salamander by Thomas Wharton. I have a soft spot for Canadian literature – it was my secondary focus through my BA and MA – and I enjoy trying new authors. Wharton has an interesting style. Very readable, once you get past the complete abandonment of quotation marks. The story begins in the ruins of a sacked town, as an officer rides through the streets slowly. He catches movement inside a destroyed bookshop and investigates, discovering a young woman, methodically going through the debris, and ends up talking to her about reading. She tells him a four-part tale about what stories might lie between the unopened green sealskin covers of a small book she has rescued, a wonderful technique for launching the reader into the book proper. The story is partially fairy tale, partially magical realism (think Umberto Eco crossed with… well, Umberto Eco, actually), wandering through Italy, Egypt, London, China, all over various seas and oceans, involves pirates, music, automatons, acrobats, and the secret, hidden Library of Alexandria. It revolves around a printer who is summoned to an odd mechanical castle in Europe to create the ultimate riddle book. He falls in love with the daughter of the house, then is imprisoned for almost two decades, eventually freed by his daughter, who then quests for her long-vanished mother while her father (now slightly mad) travels with her, still seeking to fulfil his mandate of creating a book which can simultaneously contain everything and nothing. I love stories like this because you get the paradox of a printed book talking about the printing of books; the text becomes the very subject examined, bringing an odd insight juxtaposed with the difficulty of seperating the book you’re reading from the book being written about.
My bus-book at the moment is a mystery called Harm None by M.R. Sellers, who has transgressed unforgivably in my opinion: he can’t use “its” and “it’s” correctly. Ever. I’m reading it because it’s an occult mystery written by a witch, and I also like to support small-press literature whenever I can. So far (a few chapters in) the story is fine, but this irritating grammatical error trips me up every time. There are others, and some bad sentence structure, and an over-reliance on description – all amateur errors, so I’m being very open-minded as I go through it. If I’d been let at this manuscript before it had been published, though, it would be different, let me tell you.