Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reading Outside Your Genre (and Century)

With a newborn in tow, one of the things I’ve discovered to help pass the time while trying to settle her to sleep was reading off my Kobo. As far as eReaders go, this thing is a gem. Since my second daughter’s birth in early October, I’ve read the last two George R.R. Martin novels, about 2100 pages.

One of the things I’ve found with my writing is the need to look outside the science fiction and fantasy genre. This affords me the chance to catch a glimpse on other styles, different prose and methods of presenting ideas. One of the things I endeavour is to do a throwback into previous centuries to the classical era, if not the classics. Reading Lord of the Rings certainly throws the currently accepted and expected prose for fantasy novels, which makes the reading experience that much more interesting (if not aggravating at times).

My current book is The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper. This inspired one of my favourite movies, one I endlessly return to if I’m bored or in the hankering for some historical fiction. First published in 1826, the narrative syntax was an absolute shocker. Did people really write like this 'back in the day?' A little research finds that many, even Mark Twain, had criticisms of the style. I later found that JFC wrote Last of the Mohicans in a style meant to be read aloud. With this in mind, reading the text flows much better, and I find the style actually lends itself to the setting.

One thing I found to be a delightful surprise was the way JFC described certain scenes. At first, I was put off by the nearly 10-page description of Magua. That said, it played into further scenes in a way I found acceptable. Less than half-way through, I can’t possibly do justice to the way he sets a scene. In one scene, the party are trapped in a series of caves, facing off against Magua and a Huron war party. In what they discover to be the sounds of horses neighing in terror, JFC describes in a fashion that could compete with any modern horror story. The atmosphere and descriptions (particularly when imagined read aloud in a darkly lit room) made for a chilling scene and added heaps to the conflict facing the characters. Loved it.

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