— in which we insult many birds
pigeons are evil, they killed my plant
— it was only a sprouted onion —
but forget it i sha’n’t.
o owlet i spotted,
o small owl so dotted,
kites are scary, they attacked my dog
— it was barking quite loudly —
eyes gleaming in the smog!
o owlet composed,
o bright yellow nose,
the paradise flycatcher was a flash of white,
the bulbuls were cheerful but dim-witted,
the crow pheasant’s full of spite.
o owlet so wise
o terrifier of mice
what, i say, what’s up?
there was a girl
with a boot in her ear
and hair that swooped on end.
she carried some mice
some feet, some ice,
and galloped round the bend.
o girl o girl,
o boot, o ear,
the other other mice squeaked and carrolled,
do not leave us
with your cousin harold.
This is not a review. Mainly because then I’ll have to go re-read the entire series again in the light of this book, and I don’t think my stomach can take it just yet.
Also: there be spoilers here. Many. Maybe. I’ve not written ’em out yet, but I did draw a spoiler dragon that I’m dying to put up somewhere.
First thing: What a thoroughly excellent book The Crippled God is. Steven Erikson is such a nice man: he doesn’t clear his throat, stick his nose in the air (as well he might, as the writer of many millions of really good words) and be all “Ahem. Here is my existential treatise you guys. It’s full of doom and gloom with brief flickers of hope and some redeeming moments of compassion. Make sure you accord it proper respect.”
Instead he writes it into this tightly-plotted, suspenseful story that’s bursting with strange characters, random machinations, giant battles, creepy bits, funny bits (The first time Tehol Beddict shows up, in a Brys flashback, I giggled so loudly that the auto guy slowed down on the Ring Road so as to turn back and look worriedly at me.) and insanely miserable bits. He even manages to sneak in bits so maudlin Dickens would be iffy about them. And it is fully awesome.
Over the last nine books, Erikson has introduced us to about eight hundred characters, each oozing all kinds of kindness and nastiness and plans and general coolth. Shoving them all into this book’s giant convergence means that whoever your favourite ones are, you probably feel a bit short-changed. I, for one, would’ve gladly skipped most of the other sub-plots if it meant more Quick Ben/Kalam, Hellian/Urb and Shadowthrone/Cotillion. The vast amount of plot also means fewer jokes, and less random sitting around and complaining — I’ve read lots of reviews of Malazan over the years, that are less than thrilled with all the verbal back-and-forthing in the series, but I’ve always loved Erikson’s conversations. He is at his best when he has two characters playing off each other. There’s a reason all my favourites come in pairs. Then there’s Erikson’s sibling thing – eighty percent of everyone’s troubles have to do with their siblings, somehow. I was a bit disappointed we didn’t see Quick Ben’s sister in this book, actually. He’s so loony and untouchable, and she’s one of the few characters who really upsets him, that you know them hanging out together would’ve been priceless.
I was also slightly let down by the great coming together of all the plot points – mainly because I didn’t want them to. I love the way the series is full of these loose canons randomly ricocheting off each other and somehow getting stuff done. The knowledge that some of them were actually, to some extent, controlled, made them much less fun, I thought. The other reason this upset me is ‘cos I liked Shadowthrone and Cotillion being snide, devious, awful people – retrospectively, their greater cause, while noble and all, made every time they appeared in the previous books cackling ominously a little bit childish.
* * * * *
Kaminsod (the crippled god’s real name) is my new favourite word. It’s a sneeze and an oath. “Kaminsod that cook,” the Duchess might say elegantly to Alice, choking on her soup and shunning her baby. “Why’d she put so much pepper?”
Or: “Kaminsod and bebother those dwarves!” Bilbo Baggins could huff when Thorin and co. invade his house and eat all his food.
Or: “You and your kaminsodden collection!” one could whuffle at one’s favourite dust-connoisseur friend in a moment of anger.
she was a terribly hairy fly,
a fly of pomp and fibre
a fly of stench and food. take care
never to offend her.
dear terribly hairy fly! dear fly,
don’t scruple to ignore me.
i have no social status, i
but have a nose most sneezy.
the terribly hairy fly – no fly
was ever quite so furry –
took my words with but a smile,
and flithered away bravely.
i haven’t seen her since, oh woe!
i haven’t sniffed her stink.
but when my nose with sneezes flows,
somewhere she’s sniggering.
a purple day in jutland, a purple day in france
a purple day for dustpans, a purple day askance –
a day of days for tapirs,
is a day of deep sunshine.
for tapirs are so full of fluff
they speak in sparkling wine.
Art by the insanely cool Atula Siriwardane.
Much toil by Reena Puri who refuses to get a blog.
Layout and design by Anil, who has similar aversion to blogs.
Lots of hard work I cannot even imagine needed doing by all the people at Amar Chitra Katha.
Script by me.
Tra la la.
ETA: Please to be reading it? This is where you can get it.
1. Calcutta is dirty, smelly, humid and utterly charming. Like one of those large licky, copiously shedding dogs that sort of knock you over and then stand over you with their mouths open and tongues dripping, simultaneously stinking at you and licking you with great affection. I wouldn’t want to live with one, but meeting one for a few days is one of life’s major joys. Mine anyway. I dunno if it was the company (sadly I cannot link you to the two other people I really wanted to put here because they both think blogs are peculiar and meant for other people), or the big ancient buildings, or the metro, or the food, but I loved Calcutta. I wish I’d had more time for book-shopping and jazz-listening. And LP hunting. Calcutta struck me as just the kind of wonderfully junky place where there’d still be piles of LPs.
2. It’s official: Bangalore is what causes my permanent cold. All of last week I was an easy-breathing, hankyless person. Not one sneeze. I felt like someone else.
3. So you know how awesome it is that wordpress lets you know intimate details of your visitors’ private lives like where they got their link to you from, and what precise combination of words fed into a search engine led them here? Today (ok, not today today. This post has been languishing in my drafts folder for a while, waiting for me to draw it a suitable animal) I logged in to find that not one but two (two! two!) people got here by using for their search that delicate, evocative phrase “donkey sex lion”. I hooted hysterically for 10 minutes. I now want to cry, as I imagine all my fond literary aspirations being trampled on by a reputation for bestiality.
4. You know how some people talk about the book that changed their life? Then there are the people who’ve read more than one book.
Books, I have always found, are sociable people, and like company. The important thing is to read and to be reading – a continuous thing, implying that one has read in the past, is doing so nowish, and will continue to do so in the future.
Compare swimming. One doesn’t swim one breadth and declare: I have swum. It changed my life. One swims many breadths, many lengths, perhaps a lake, and says ‘I swim’ – or if you are desperately enthusiastic, ‘I like swimming.’
5. I love listening to Nick Drake on rainy days.
6. When we were small, my sister and I went to a million music classes. We kept making excuses to stop taking them, on account of how they seemed (at the time) a terrible waste of our evenings. Plus I hated having a high, weedy voice. When I talk, it’s sort of inaudible and nondescript, but when I sing I attract bats. I wanted (still do) a deep bass full of fire and brimstone, something awe-inspiring and magnificent. As ever, my desire for grandiosity was matched only by my complete lack of skill. My singing voice was, I felt, more suited to a rabbit. I’m not sure what my sister’s hang-up was, since her voice was distinctly deeper than mine (but then the squirrel on the tree outside my window has been known to have a deeper singing voice than mine) but clearly she too had some vast singing shame, and we sulked in wondrous togetherness. It was the one thing we always agreed upon. Our lack of enthusiasm must’ve been contagious, because sometimes the teachers also made similar excuses and never came back.
And sometimes, our (oh so cruel!) parents would line us up and ask us to sing at random relatives. We’d valiantly not look at each other, and start off ok – both of us have a respectable sense of tune. A line later (before the song could go high and my falsetto could sneak out) — and in my memories our embarrassment threshold was so neatly aligned that we never did need to look at each other for confirmation — we would just stop. And one of us would say very firmly, ignoring my parents’ fond promptings: paadiyaach. (“I’ve sung”. Past perfect, indicating that there would be no more singing in the future. We hoped.)
Apparently adulthood has made me no better at ending things.