I’ve prolly mentioned before that I’ve got fiddly fingers as a reader. I’m impatient and I abandon dull books freely. I haven’t purchased a paper book in four years. So for an 800+ page opus with copious footnotes and convoluted plots to still live on my bookshelf after four moves and two children — cover ripped off, pages taped to the snapped spine — well, the writing has to be out-of-this-world spectacular.
Picture Jane Austen envisioning a world where practical magic was a normal part of English life. And it returns as the purview of fusty English gentleman in breeches and meeting halls, debating around the banquet table at their supper club. And then magic returns under the hands of the fusty-dustiest bachelor hoarder of them all. Imagine what Jane’s quill would have done with this situation. Picture it….wait, you don’t need to, because Clarke included Dickens-style images in manuscript:
Are your hands shaking? They should be. Susanna Clarke’s groundbreaking alt-history/fantasy Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is that good. I’m still shocked that we haven’t seen more like it, that the publishing landscape didn’t undergo a seismic shift because of Clarke’s achievement. I’m not alone in that befuddlement. And I’ve been waiting for twelve years for a sequel. I’d wait forever, but it HURTS. Every month or so I think “When, Susanna? When?” I google for any news. Even the slightest glimmer of hope would do: a sighting of her entering a mystical writing cave, stocking up on whatever tea she drinks. Anything…
Yesterday, I stumbled upon this article on Slate.
I scared my kids screaming with delight.
So pretend you’re a LOTR fan who’s been living in Plato’s Cave for five years, and you emerge in December of 2001. Someone hands you a newspaper. You flip to the A&E section and on page one there’s a review for The Fellowship of the Ring. And it’s opening that day. So do you (a) eat your first cheeseburger, (b) get some sexy time, or (c) immediately hail a cab and go to the first movie theater you can find. You know the answer, right?
Talk about having and eating your cake. My favorite book (sharing the same shelf space as Life of Pi and A Canticle for Lebowitz and A Confederacy of Dunces), made into an 8-hour miniseries by the folks that brought us Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice. Available immediately. It just doesn’t get any better. God bless you, Amazon.
It was good for me!