Saturday, August 15, 2015

Jacobean Burnout

I find it difficult to admit or even believe, but I may be burning out on King James I and his court. I'm really slowing down on this book. Is it that I've read so many books about King James and his gang so recently? Is it that I'm starting to crave fiction again? A review in the New York Times a week or two ago intrigued me. It was for a novel called THE DYING GRASS. So I went to Square Books and looked at it and there it was: a novel of more than a thousand pages called THE DYING GRASS. I thought: "That takes confidence!" To write a novel of more than a thousand pages and call it THE DYING GRASS. Like people will say, huh, a thousand-page novel about dying grass, cool! But there is a character named Red Owl, as I learned from the review, and you know what that means. THE DYING GRASS is part of a series by William T. Vollmann called "Seven Dreams." The review mentioned earlier volumes including one titled ARGALL in which Vollmann "attempted a postmodernist pastiche of 17th-century style that, in the eyes of many reviewers, didn’t work." And of course that made me want to read it, as bad reviews so often do. So although nothing on earth - through no fault of Mr. Vollmann's - could make me read THE DYING GRASS, Cody at Square Books ordered ARGALL for me. "How many pages is it? No, don't tell me!" I said. "I can tell you it's less than a thousand pages," said Cody. In the meantime, I found a used copy of the first of Vollmann's "Seven Dreams." It's called THE ICE-SHIRT. It's a fantasy novel, though I doubt anyone has called it that, because William T. Vollmann wrote it. But it has a lot of sentences like this: "Ivar's men, raking through the ashes in hopes of booty, presently came upon two skeletons breast to breast, and inside each one a frantically beating wolf's heart."