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14 July 2014 @ 08:09 pm
Recent Reads/GGK Book Club: Tigana  

I have, terribly belatedly, read April’s GGK book club novel, TIGANA. Well, re-read it, because it’s down on my Reading List four times and I’ve read it at least twice that many times, because the reading list didn’t get started until well after the book came out.

TIGANA is, pretty much without a doubt, my favourite book. I’ve never previously tried to do any kind of figuring out why, but as I was reading this time I had the question in the back of my head, and it became clear very early on that one of the reasons it succeeds so hugely for me is because I find it so incredibly well *balanced*.

The heartbreak and the joy of the book are always on a knife’s edge; of the characters, Devin, particularly, often recognizes that within himself. But more than that, even, is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. There’s no weft without the weave there, and I could cite dozens of examples but I’d be here all night. One weight and balance that particularly struck me in this reading, though, was what Tomasso gained from Sandre and Sandre gained from Catriana.

Another thing that especially struck me in this reading was that not very long ago, author Alma Alexander, who was born in Yugoslavia, talked about how the ripping away of Tigana’s name struck her viscerally, as someone whose country of birth no longer exists. GGK’s inspiration for the idea of taking away a name apparently came from visiting Ireland, where he was struck by all the English place-names replacing the Irish names, but until I read Alma’s post I didn’t really think about how there are modern countries–many countries–which have disappeared and come unmade that way. It’s my favourite book anyway, but that increased its impact yet again.

And then on a hugely personal career note, the last two or three times I’ve read TIGANA have been post-Inheritors’-Cycle-writing. I knew, of course (and astute readers also observed) that in many ways those books are a direct homage to GGK in general and TIGANA in specific. It had been several years since I’d read TIGANA when I wrote THE QUEEN’S BASTARD and THE PRETENDER’S CROWN, and going back and re-reading it not long after those books came out–honestly, there’s more homage than I intended. There are a couple of things–Belinda’s memory, in particular–that I would have done differently if I had remembered consciously about *Devin*’s memory.

OTOH, I could not have written those books without TIGANA, or I couldn’t have written them the way that I did, and I happen to love them the way that they are. TQB, especially–there’s a moment in it where the whole book up to that point pays off in something like 57 words. To me it’s the knife-twist moment, the moment where the last piece falls into place and damns it all, and for me, it’s perfect. And what I was trying to achieve there was the agonizing inevitablity that TIGANA builds toward: the moment when the mountains lift from Rhun’s mind; the moment when Dianora leaves Scelto; the moment when Sandre breaks the blind and speaks to the sorcerer, and a dozen more like it. Without those guidelines, without the knowledge it *could* be done, I could never have even tried, much less (for myself, at least) succeeded.

So even for the parts where I went (in my retrospective opinion) too far, those books are so much a love story to TIGANA that really all I can do is stand with my hand to my heart and thank GGK for writing it. It’s just…well, it’s my favourite book.

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

 
 
 
Alix (Tersa): Arwen Reading (tersa)tersa on July 14th, 2014 08:45 pm (UTC)
So your post reminded me I'd wanted to ask you an opinion question about something only related to GGK-books...but then I read the post, and now it would feel tres gauche to aside from that.

Just...wow.

<3
kitmizkit on July 14th, 2014 09:11 pm (UTC)
...now I'm of course very curious as to what the question was. *laughs*
Alix (Tersa): Arwen Reading (tersa)tersa on July 14th, 2014 09:26 pm (UTC)
*laugh*

I've gotten into audiobooks (or at least an audiobook) to listen to while forcing myself to walk. I'm about at the end of the only one I have in electronic format and thinking about the next, and found two GGK books, Song of Arbonne and Lions of Al-Rassan, narrated by a gentlemen who I know via video game voice acting.

However, I also seem to recall not liking either of those overly much, from the one time I read them...christ. Maybe 15-20 years ago now...so wanted to get your abashedly biased opinions on whether to "re-read" them that way or not.

Edited at 2014-07-14 09:27 pm (UTC)
kitmizkit on July 14th, 2014 09:37 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's an unintentionally loaded question to ask me. :)

A SONG FOR ARBONNE is my least favourite GGK book. I'm actually kind of looking forward to re-reading it, because it's the only one I've never had any interest *in* re-reading and I really want to find out if I just totally missed the thrust of it 20+ years ago or if it genuinely doesn't work for me. (I believe, to balance that, that it's desperance's favourite GGK.)

I have violent feelings about LIONS. Up until the final chapter it was well on the road to defeating TIGANA as my favourite GGK book, and I fully, fundamentally believe GGK blew it in the last chapter. I have never re-read it because the last chapter pissed me off SO MUCH. So I am, in a way, also looking forward to reading it again to see if I still agree with 1995 Me or if I've come around to GGK's POV.

I do not hold much confidence in having come around, frankly, but I'm attempting to keep an open mind. :)

Neither of which response, I suspect, helps you AT ALL in your quest to decide whether to read them or not. :)

OTOH, if you start SONG I'll start reading it and we can tholl it together. :)
Alix (Tersa): Arwen Reading (tersa)tersa on July 14th, 2014 09:43 pm (UTC)
Actually, that helps ENORMOUSLY. I don't really want to plunk down $20+ for the audio version of a book I remember disliking and now have had corroborated that it isn't just my fuzzy memory that makes me think that.

:)

(I just made an Amazon Kindle Whispersync purchase of another book by the same author I'm currently listening to, Laura Kinsale, who has a different video game VA narrator I'd like to read me the phone book, for about half the price of the Audible.com audio-alone version which is crazy sauce. And debating doing something similar with Skin Job, which I still haven't read.)
kitmizkit on July 14th, 2014 09:49 pm (UTC)
Oh, good, cool, I'm glad it helps! :)

(Don't even talk to me about how far behind I am on Jim's books. SUMMER KNIGHT, anyone?)
Alix (Tersa): Arwen Reading (tersa)tersa on July 14th, 2014 09:58 pm (UTC)
(Good grief. Now that you're done with Urban Shaman, you have no excuse! Go forth and read, you do it with other authors!)
kitmizkit on July 15th, 2014 07:33 am (UTC)
(It's worse than that, even. I actually read SUMMER KNIGHT as a rough draft online before it underwent significant revisions for publication. I need to just start at the beginning and read them all. :))
Michellemsagara on July 14th, 2014 10:39 pm (UTC)
A SONG FOR ARBONNE is also my favorite GGK, structurally, fwiw.

I did not have the same explosive reaction to LIONS that you did. I did resent the use of the very very subjective "a good man" in the penultimate chapter, though.
kitmizkit on July 15th, 2014 06:11 am (UTC)
They were both good men. It is my violently-held opinion that he killed the wrong one, and that furthermore he knew it and consequently tried to obfuscate it in the final chapter, which I had to read five times in order to be sure which man had died.

Seriously, I haven't read the book in 19 years and I'm still pissed off about it. Not that I hold grudges or anything.
Chrysoulachrysoula on July 16th, 2014 02:10 am (UTC)
Have I told you my experience with Lions? In which I was maybe a quarter into it and I thought, "This character is the Diarmuid of the book. He is going to die," and before I could stop myself I flipped to the end and I was right and I put the book down and I didn't actually pick up another Kay book until Ysabel.

But Tigana was my favorite book for at least a decade anyhow.
kitmizkit on July 16th, 2014 06:36 am (UTC)
You were much more insightful than I. :)
Herefoxherefox on July 14th, 2014 10:36 pm (UTC)
Tigana is the one book of GGK's that I've probably read enough to be able to recite bits (though some of Fionvarr Tapestry is close. But that one cheats by being so similar to many other things that I've read)

I'm glad you're back on track with this a little because I was looking forward to Song of Arbonne and Lion's for exactly the same reason as you. Though I can't remember a single thing that actually happened in Lions, honestly, there's only one scene near the beginning the book that I even remember. I just remember being underwhelmed
kitmizkit on July 15th, 2014 07:38 am (UTC)
I'm kind of thinking of going straight into SONG, so let's read! :)
Mary Annepers1stence on July 17th, 2014 03:49 pm (UTC)
I liked Tigana on this re-read, although enough "real life" things have happened since I read it that I don't have a whole lot of thinky thoughts left about it.

But what my notes remind me, and also relative to the other comments on this post, is how willing GGK is to have his endings be a little bittersweet and/or ambiguous(and his characters for that matter).

In this instance, Sandre, Devin and Baerd all see a riselka, and we are reminded that when three people see such a creature, one is blessed, one to die, one to change paths. But it isn't clear which fate belongs to whom in this instance.

This plays out in LIONS, which I remember loving on initial reading ages ago, at the end. And I really loved the fact that I wasn't certain until the very very end which of the men would survive. We'll see if that holds up on the re-read.