I am rereading it again. Possibly one of the most important stories I ever read as an adult. Most of all because, as a student, I never felt like I had time to read anything non-curriculum related. There was always a student’s guilt of not having studied enough, read enough or worked enough.
So it was with some trepidation and a slight bit of delight that I picked up The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, one mild summer afternoon under the Arctic midnight sun. I think I had just finished my exams, or maybe it was just that year’s lectures that had ended. I was free as a leaf on the wind, and I had been sending long glances after this book with the cliché cover and enticing back blurb. I had not let myself afford it before, but it kept beckoning me. Tempting me in the gorgeous bookshop that is oh, so common in both Norwegian universities I have attended, but woefully lacking in my partner’s London campus, as they are just not able to compete with Amazon.
As I mentioned, I had not read a book purely for my own enjoyment in years. I had a bad case of student’s guilt and an empty purse. The book cost at least half a week’s worth of good food. A whole week’s worth in a skint time. I was feeling hollow myself, studying because that was what I did.
Little did I know that the fat, little book would soon become my new treasure. A way back into the long-loved fantasy books of my youth.
In the very beginning, the prologue and mood-setting in the Waystone Inn confused me. It took a bit to get started. I thought I knew what was going on, doubted myself, but it turned out I had been right after all. I sat in my landlady’s good couch. The kind that is meant for snuggling up with a cup of steaming tea and a good, well-read book.
Once the book got started proper, the rest of my tea got cold. Over my head, the midnight sun wandered around the horizon in a way that is natural to the northerner’s but difficult to describe in writing. The feeling of night with the quiet, crisp silence and yet the light is bright as day. It is delightful, and a perfect setting for drowning in a book. And boy, did I drown.
I pulled an all-nighter then. Something I have only done a small handful of times in my entire life. I read the whole little brick of a book in one single setting, only interrupted by a call of nature. And because I was slow to the party I had the liberty of being able to walk back to the bookstore the day after and pick up the second book. This one I did not read in one sitting, but it was a delight all the same, even at less than 48 hours. Not as much as the first one perhaps, but there is always something special about being first.
Because I have a tendency to go a bit mad once I latch onto somthing, I searched for more of his works. What I found was his blog, and I read happily through the archives for perhaps two days straight. After that I still keep tabs on it. He has a lovely way with words. A lyrical way that dances through your mind, even without the melodic rhymes of a song or a verse. It just rolls beautifully off the page in thoughtful, lilting syllables. He rekindled something in me that had been forced under a lid for several years as I felt too busy by my science curriculum: A love for the well-written word and stories that don’t just follow the narrow path.
At some point I actually sent him an email. It was gushing and embarassing, but underneath was a question that had burned inside me for a very long time. Because all the good fantasy I had read was in English, I was somehow conditioned to think in English, especially when it came to fantasy. I wondered, anxiously, if it was possible for a non-native English speaker to write well in English. To write compelling, beautiful stories in a language that was not their first.
I was not really expecting an answer. Imagine my delight when one arrived in my inbox almost a week later. It was short. At only 27 words it is possibly the least verbose I have ever seen the bearded bard.
Even so, it was 27 words I held close to my heart. By mentioning Russian author Dostoyevski (who wrote in English), he validated years of rocking back and forth between yes, no and maybe.
Then there was The Slow Regard of Silent Things. And Rouges. And Bast. Old Holly was another small delight, even just for the beautiful flow of the words.
For Christmas my partner got me a Kindle. I had not wished for one. It was not that I did not see how one might be convenient, but I do try to keep a decluttered and fairly minimalistic life. It was simply not on my list. Yet now I am finding I quite enjoy it. Whereas before I would bring a book to the airport, and be done and disappointed long before the journey’s end. Now I can bring more than a book, a whole bookshelf worth of books. It is like a magnificent book of books, and it is glorious. I can bring my favourite, most verbose author while still bringing Gaiman, science and new authors I discover along the way. Like Abercrombie, and Lynch. It doesn’t weigh any more in the least, and it has quickly become a tiny treasure trove. An easy way to keep reading because the device itself is slim and light, no matter what heavy tome has currently caught my attention.
This might be a strange way to go about it, but in some strange way of things, I am trying to write out my appreciation to the author who brought me back to the comforting home of fantasy novels of all kinds. I thought about writing reviews, but they would probably have become far too meandering and easily distracted. Probably it would have turned into one long mess of a thing where I try to review all two books and short-stories all at once. And I suppose that simply will not do for a good review.
It is true that I am, somewhat anxiously, returning to the world of science and research in a few months. But this time, I am determined not to let the world of dragons and magic slip me by while I do so. I even make fledgling attempts at crafting stories of my own. They are fledgling, mercurial things. But there is enjoyment in trying to find them in between the words and spaces. It is a delightful hobby, and I hope to keep at it.
So thank you, Rothfuss, for giving me back the delight of well-told stories. For setting my own imagination once again alight.