Brightness, Here and Now

A Brightness Long Ago, by Guy Gavriel Kay

I’m not going to try to write about Guy Gavriel Kay’s new book, because his writing is SO beautiful and it intimidates me to the point of incapacity to even think about this blog. Instead, I’m going to write about reading his books, a failed experiment, and one special Tweet by Miranda1452 (who is me). Not necessarily in that order.

First, the experiment. Typically, when I read GGK, I am so absorbed and entranced by his books that I binge-read until I’m done. This time, however, I decided to go with a savouring approach and limit myself to one chapter per day. Here’s why. Once, at a GGK book reading, Guy asked my friend if he liked the book and my friend replied that he read it in about 4 hours straight because he couldn’t put it down, and the look of dismay on Guy’s face was so astonishing! I figured, here’s a man who took years of his life to create this beautiful, poetic work of are, and we turn around and consume it in a few hours. So my decision was an attempt to extend, and more fully appreciate, his writing. The unexpected side effect, however, was that I didn’t get drawn into his story like I usually do, because I so frequently took myself out of it. And I have to say, not only did I miss the feeling of being immersed, I felt like I was less able to fully appreciated his work.

Which brings me to the Special Tweet. I always struggle to describe the feeling of losing myself in a GGK story, so imagine my surprise when he, himself, describes it perfectly in Brightness:

We want to sink into the tale, leave our own lives behind, find lives to encounter, even to enter for a time. We can resist being reminded of the artificer, the craft. We want to be immersed, lost, not remember what it is we are doing, having done to us, as we turn pages, look at a painting, hear a song, watch a dance.

Still, that is what is being done to us. It is.

Even so … we do turn the page, and can be lost again. And in that deep engagement we may find ourselves, or be changed, because the stories we are told become so much of what we are, how we understand our own days.

This is what I tweeted about. And … Guy Gavriel Kay liked it! And me – did I uphold a sense of dignity and self-respect, or did I fan-girl all over that shit? Oh, I think you can guess the answer to that …

The Tweet

The Like

Lastly, on reading GGK books. Many of his books take place in the same fantasy universe, and in case you have always been wondering about the relative timelines and relationships between his books to date, I give you the following.

Fionavar & Ysabel

The Fionavar Tapestry takes place in our world, in “present day” Toronto as well as in the fantasy realm of Fionavar (time unknown). Ysabel takes place in our world maybe 20-30 years later with some fun references to Fionavar.

Arbonne & Tigana

These could both potentially be shoe-horned into the same universe as the Sarantine world books, but in fact I think they are intended to be independent, both from the other books and from each other. However, regardless of that intent, they appear to mirror events from ~1200 AD  (Medieval Spain) and ~1500 AD (Renaissance Italy) respectively.

Under Heaven & River of Stars

These books take place about 300 years apart in the sequence published, in a world that resembles the ancient Chinese dynasties of Tang and Song.

The remaining books are all of the Sarantium world (for lack of a better reference, as the actual world in which they take place is unnamed). For these, I have drawn up a nerdy little timeline presented below. I’ve included Under Heaven and River of Stars for good measure, since it’s possible they occur within the same world:

And with that, I settle in for the very long wait until the next GGK book is released. I. Can’t. Wait.

Rating: Buy it and add it to your GGK collection, which you should already own.

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3 Responses to Brightness, Here and Now

  1. Chrystal says:

    So glad he liked your tweet Fan-girl! Thanks for the awesome review. You lost me at “same fantasy universe”, not because you were boring but because my brain shut off….

  2. Ken Woychesko says:

    I like your approach! I understand what you mean by not even attempting to describe a GGK novel–how could you do justice to the layers and nuances in a few paragraphs?

    It’s interesting that you found yourself not drawn in as deeply by taking your time… ironic! I think if I wrote a novel, I’d be okay/flattered with someone not being able to put it down, as long as afterwards they kept finding themselves chewing on the story/themes/characters/meaning/etc. at various times. It’s almost like they would still be “reading” it weeks later, like, what’s not important is the looking at the words, but the thinking about their meaning.

    • Risa says:

      Thank you Ken, that’s great insight! I am definitely affected long after reading a GGK novel … it takes a while to “exit” the story, you know?

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