The Larkin Ledgers

Like an endless chain of half-built houses


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New Covers: Die Musik der Stille

There’s another cover for The Slow Regard of Silent Things. Die Musik der Stille is the German edition of the novella. Longtime translator Jochen Schwarzer did the heavy lifting again. The interior is illustrated by Marc Simonetti.

Check out Melanie Miklitza‘s original artwork. The cover was designed by Birgit Gitschier.

Die Musik der Stille - TSoRST German ed 1st HC

Du solltest dir dieses Buch vielleicht nicht kaufen. However, if you want to anyway, signed copies are available at The Tinker’s Packs.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part XII.iii ASH AND EMBER

We left off with, “breaching the door that’s not for her with neither warning nor comment.” The Larkin Ledgers took a holiday hiatus in much the same manner, but now that High Mourning has passed, I’ll see if I can’t get back to the text in earnest.

Auri walked into Boundary like it was no big deal. In a way it’s similar to the way the name of Annulet just slipped into the text without drawing attention to itself. Is this a new motif for the chapters across the ring?

She returns to Mantle to find her third fire burned down to ash with which she finally fills her clay cup full. She rinses her hands and face and feet. It’s worthwhile to revisit the bit quoted from The Wise Man’s Fear back when she sealed the pipe.

“Some of the compounds we use,” I said. “They’ll go straight through your skin and kill you in eighteen slow ways.” I thought back to the day my tenten glass had cracked in the Fishery. Of the single drop of transporting agent that had landed on my shirt. It was only a tiny drop, barely larger than the head of a nail. I was so certain it hadn’t touched my skin. “I hope that’s not it. But I don’t know what else it might be.”WMF 185

Auri’s making soap because she’s out. Any chemical or alchemical poisoning she experiences during the process can’t be mitigated by even basic hygiene. So far, she seems careful enough, but like that incident it’s not her actions as they happen that tell the story but her reactions afterward. Keeping that in mind makes what follows in the next few chapters easier to understand.

Everything’s ready. She sets the tallow to melt, resisting the urge to speed the process along. The she filters water through the ashes, the usefulness of the crack becoming clear. She kept it as a tool rather then a pointless odd piece of junk.

When the final drips had fallen, Auri held the jar of cinderwash aloft and saw it was as fine as any she had ever made. It was a sunset dusky red. Stately and graceful, it was a changing thing. But underneath it all, the liquid held a blush of wantonness. It held all the proper things the wood had brought and many caustic lies besides.

Calling it cinderwash rather than lye is almost like bear baiting, though in this case the bears are his fans. Depending on the denim brand, cinder wash is either ashen or crimson, but I kind of doubt that’s what Rothfuss was going for. It evokes mercurial grace, goat’s eyes, too many teeth. So it’s not surprising that he ends the paragraph wit the clever turn of phrase. Caustic lies connected to Cinder? The mind itches.

So she’s got water, lye, and fat. She can make soap. Plain, unscented, joyless soap. “How terrible to live surrounded by the stark, sharp, hollowness of things that simply were enough?” the text asks.  Auri’s intentional smallness, her resistance of desire, again grates against her minor indulgences.

And here the nutmeg comes in, together with Esther’s esters. A redditor explored the soap-making process in some detail here, which should clear up anything I negelct to explain and account for any gross misconceptions on my part. Chemists and alchemists weighed in to offer information. One went so far as to note that Pat was drawing a little bit from life in these scenes.

What I want to draw out of all that is the incredibly haphazard and generally unsafe extraction method Auri uses to get tetradecanoic acid. Presumably it’ll improve the lather of the soap and the selas scent will improve Auri’s day. But she’s chancing (or maybe courting, who knows) toxic exposure to myristicin.

A and E Byne

She wishes for a proper press, which she actually has in Boundary. Her rules for using it are, at this point, unclear. So she carries on straining, twisting, and absorbing psychoactive agents through the linen.

Auri lifted up the glass and eyed the viscous liquid, clear as amber. It was lovely, lovely , lovely. It was like nothing that she’d ever seen before. It was thick with secrets and sea foam.

In the whole of The Kingkiller Chronicle, there’s just one triple epizeuxis: Elodin’s “Blue! Blue! Blue!” in The Name of the Wind. There are two or three in The Slow Regard of Silent Things. I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but lending Auri so many kind of illuminates her naming ability and sets her in a more rarefied space. It’s full of sea foam for lather. Whispers and secrets for the euphoric effects. Musk for the Selas scent.

The pomace left over, the linen, the sticks, are full of screaming. Auri handles them as little as possible “as if they had been poisoned.” With a proper press, she might not have risked the mounting anxiety and dissociation that’s coming. She gathers up everything she used to extract the oil and heads into Boundary again, this time with a bit more fanfare. We’re building to something, but that will have to wait.

Auri rinses. Rinses again. Wishes for soap. She wanders into Port and furtively checks over everything.  Everything. She checks to make sure the pages to The Book of Secrets are still uncut, so every reader will know something’s wrong. She rinses again.

The light was brighter and she heard the sound of things that normally she couldn’t hear. A keening of the world all out of place. A howl of everything all turned from true. . . .

The hallucinations begin, probably augmented by her continual fasting. Mantle itself is precarious. Things in their places only barely holding an illusion together. Page 116 is Auri’s bummer. “Everything was. Everything was everything. Everything was everything else.”

But she manages to find a focus, a fulcrum, in the brazen gear.

When all the world was palimpsest, it was a perfect palindrome.

This line seems so heavy handed, but each time I look back at it I grow a little more fond. Palimpsest is a great metaphor for the aggregate meaning that builds with each additional read of Rothfuss, scraping away old impressions and writing over them with new ones. And palindrome is as much a reference to the structure of this novella as it is to the gear itself.

A and E Brazen

It’s a ring with a clear start and finish that when turned right side up, with the middle in the most prominent place, fixes everything. But it doesn’t necessarily make sense that Auri turning it could bring her out of an entheogenic fugue. Unless you take the text literally. She didn’t turn the gear. She turned the world.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part XII.ii ASH AND EMBER

It was just as Master Mandrag always said: nine tenths of chemistry was waiting.

The last time she remembered Mandrag she was sealing the pipe in Rubric. That time we didn’t get a direct quote and this time we do. We can expect to see more details, not just her using and appreciating alchemical creations but perhaps making something of her own. And that’s exactly where the text is going.

Last time wan’t exactly free of consequence, though. Even a relatively minor moment of clarity came with acute paranoia and subtle hallucinations. So we should also expect a proportional backlash.

While she’s waiting for her fire, she traipses off to Tree to gather supplies, including the lump of suet she nicked from the barn in the mirror chapter “A QUITE UBCOMMON PLEASANT PLACE.” She also grabs the bowl of nutmegs.

A and E Nutmegs

So strange and rare. So full of faraway. She picked one up and ran her fingertips along its tippled skin.

Out here in the extratextual world, nutmeg was available from only a single island until the nineteenth century. Given the roughly Renaissance setting of The Kingkiller Chronicle, a similar if not identical situation on Temerant probably accounts for the rarity and distance desc.  The choice of “tippled” to describe the outer skin of the seeds is interesting. Casual dictionary delving reveals two definitions, neither of which is really textural.

The first is related to alcohol and its consumption. For a general class of potential intoxicants, this could wit some stretching apply to nutmeg, which can produce myristicin. The other describes a device for overturning freight cars. Again, with a stretch, knowing what’s coming in the text, there’s some reverberation with the end of the chapter. But it’s an odd turn of phrase no matter how one conceives it. And yet it, if you’ve handled nutmeg pits, it seems to saound reasonable.

She retrieves a mortar and pestle from Darkhouse and some other items from Clinks and Tenners. She sets the suet to render and cooks the acorns, also gathered in the paired chapter. After eating them, she grinds the nutmegs in the mortar.

NMortar & Pestleate Taylor created several drawings of the mortar that didn’t make it into the book.  He and Pat were wary of showing too much of Auri, which is why so many of the images feature just her arms or legs. They previewed one such during their Worldbuilders hangout.

Ultimately this one was just too busy. Auri, the mortar, the bowl, the clay cup, the linen sack and the sticks, a bottle, the pot. Two pieces of it survived to become the starker, closer images in the published version.

When she was finished grinding, Auri pulled the copper pot of melted suet off the fire. She stirred. She sieved the dottle off till there was nothing left but hot, sharp tallow.

Dottle is another strange choice of words. There are impurities that separate and rise when rendering that need to be skimmed off. However, dottle appears to refer specifically to “unburned and partially burned tobacco in the bowl of a pipe.” So I’m either not looking in the right place or this is another sidelong glance at intoxicants foreshadowing her upcoming ethnobotanical experience.

She brought the bottle of Esther’s and set it near the fireplace with her tools.

This is Pat reiterating and indulging in the Esther/ester pun from the previous chapter. Esther’s esters will provide the selas scent for her soap. She tries to bring the laurel fruit from her excursion outside since it’s required by the structure of the story, but it won’t fit. For whatever mysterious reason, the Auri won’t be bathing in laurels. Those are for someone else.

It exasperated her, but she knew better than to force the world to bend to her desire.

Oddly enough, she’ll do exactly that with the laurels later. She’ll bend the world just a little for someone else. Like the hair-splitting that allowed her the faerie bread but not the milk, a little reality warping is sometimes justifiable. Just not for herself.

As she gets into the processes, Rothfuss begins to play a bit with the words.  Birch and Ash “make a medley without melding or meddling,” much like the silences in the Prologues and Epilogues of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. Counterpoints, each existing alone but acting together. Hawthorn is sufficiently apetalous to make her blush. The nutmegs are “a cipher and a mystery.”

They’re a code to be unlocked. Hence the unusual descriptors. The mystery is essential to period appropriate alchemical texts, which buried their practices in allegory and code to throw off both persecution and easy proliferation. It’s a sort of metacommentary on the text. That it’s about a seed is doubly funny.

Anyway, having skimmed the tallow she finds it full of rage. Without, forgiving another pun, “laurel to keep it at bay” she needs to draw the animus out. We finally see some hands on alchemy as she takes the pot to a shaft of moonlight in tumbrel and absorbs the anger with a bead of beeswax.

 

A and E Wax

As neat a factoring as ever hand of man had managed.

Kvothe is surrounded by alchemists. His best friend, his creditor, his nemesis, and his companionable sewer urchin are all evoking principles and factoring around him and he knows nothing about it. For someone who prides himself on his own cleverness, he’s leaving himself at a distinct disadvantage.

She takes the copper pot to Tree to cool and extracts a clean white disc. Then she puts the wax bead with all the factored fury in a jar. And she places it on a high shelf in Boundary, breaching the door that’s not for her with neither warning nor comment.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part XI.iv – THE ANGRY DARK

Laying in bed, Auri finds she cannot sleep. Doing a mental inventory, she decides it’s neither the cold, her bitten hand, or loneliness keeping her awake. It’s her treatment of the blanket, stuffed angrily into the wine rack.

No. She knows it’s because of her anger with and ill treatment of the blanket. Despite it no longer being fit for her bed, it’s still worth folding it properly.

She smoothed it gently out across the table, murmuring an apology. And she was sorry. She knew better. Cruelty never helped the turning of the world.

Here something implicit in the text is made obvious. The difference between compassion and cruelty actually affects the world around her; perhaps around us. The former actually assists the turning of the world.

She places the blanket on the bookshelf in Port. She moves some of the other objects nearer to it, to keep it company. She finds the tears that eluded her earlier. Is it another day because she attempted sleep? Does that bend the structural rules that left her bereft, unable to cry on the previous “day?”

She mentally inventories both Port and Mantle. Everything’s in order and it reads like the early pages of the novella. The order is the same, with the additions, like the brazen gear and the amber ring, that she’s added to her collection.

Despite all of this, she felt unsettled. Here, in her most perfect place.

She’s not clear about exactly what’s wrong, though we, as readers, have clues. She’s still focused inwards, on her space, her sense of self.  Her vanity.

She weeps for an hour and we get a sense of Mantle’s size. I’d imagined it as a relatively small, intimate place, but it’s quite large. Having done so, she remains uncomfortable, She checks Port again. She unloads some of her pockets and sits down.

As she sat on the edge of her bed, Auri realized what was out of place . She was herself in disarray. She’d seen something in Tumbrel and not tended to it.

Of course it’s the three mirrored vanity she’d noticed in the flickering light of her spirit lamp. I’ve commented on it before, but I really like the juxtaposition of her own navel gazing with the fortunately named furniture. And it’s marked with three, with mirrors, just in case the word wasn’t enough of a clue.

Still, she doesn’t want to go fix it.  She’s worn out.  Apparently that doesn’t matter, though. She goes through a bit of self denial and recrimination and resolves to get the job, the mending, done.

So she stood and made her slow way back to Tumbrel. Down Crumbledon. Through Wains. Through circle-perfect Annulet and up the unnamed stair.

Annulet. She made the sitting room right earlier, but its name was never given. Now we get it in passing. Literally, it means “little ring.” Circle perfect. Passing through it quietly, since there’s no eureka moment when we discover its name, might also suggest “annul.” Auri’s self is given over to the task, obliterated as she passes through this time.

She takes her time examining the vanity in the sifting light. She considers it from both sides. From above and below.

She tried not to look in the mirrors, knowing how she must appear. An unwashed, red-eyed, tangled mess. Too thin. Too pale.

A nod to her self consciousness and her deliberate rejection thereof. As she owns both the text acknowledges some of the the flaws of her existence. Life in the Underthing may be something of an adventure, but it’s hardly romanticized.

Simonetti 4 Tumbrel

 

This is another image from La Musique du Silence. Marc Simonetti’s vision of the Underthing is somewhat more detailed than Nate Taylor’s and Pat had less involvement with those illustrations. I like this image because it grounds the object in place and context.

Because the vanity looms large in the text, it can seem like a construct floating in space waiting for Auri’s intervention. In the French text it’s simply part of a bedroom set in a ruined room, surprisingly intact and yet still disordered. A bit like Auri herself.

She sits before it anestherd determines that the disarray works. The metaphoric connection continues to operate. It only needs a few adjustments. She swaps two drawers and puts away a hairbrush. Then she hides a brooch.

It’s almost right. The only thing remaining out of place is  “a delicate blue bottle with a twisted silver stopper.” She tries righting it.  She tries polishing it. She tries to find a place for it in a drawer. Nothing seems right.

Turning it over in her hands, she saw tiny letters etched across the bottom of the glass. They read: For My Intoxicating Esther.

Amused, Auri pulls the stopper an inhales. It’s perfume and Auri is delighted by the pun. Rather than some sort of Biblical reference, though who knows I guess, it’s a chemical one. Esters are the volatile compounds that make alcohols and fragrances intoxicating.

Of course she pockets it. The vanity is set right and Auri actually laughs all the way home. She places the bottle on the shelf next to what was formerly her, but now just the, blanket and finally heads to bed.

It’s cold. It’s lonely. But she’s done things the proper way.  And that’s something.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part XI.iii – THE ANGRY DARK

Then she saw her blanket. Her perfect blanket she had made herself in only the most proper way. It had twisted and the corner lay all naked on the floor.

Getting out of bed on a tapering day, a burning day, was literally a mistake. This is bad. We know it’s bad because she’s been careful with the blanket throughout the story. Presumably everyone reading this is familiar with the concept known as Checkov’s gun.

If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.

Rather than a quirk of personality, it becomes a part of the story. Sure, it was more than a couple chapters, or acts, or whatever, but we’re dealing with a structure Checkov would’ve found ponderous at worst and inefficient at best. Rings are sort of exactly not the three or five act story we’re used to. Nonetheless, the blanket was the second object she interacted with.

Moving carefully, Auri pushed back her blanket so it wouldn’t touch the floor.

So of course it eventually touched the floor.  Luckily, Foxen’s safe in its box. There’s no telling what would’ve happened had she insisted on its light. Especially since she nearly lost it in The Twelve on the first day.

Auri’s all about the “proper way” of doing things. The phrase shows up ten times in this relatively short novella. It’s a theme. Meant to contrast with what she sees as improper, wicked, or presumptuous.

But it’s parceled out sparingly in Rothfuss’s broader catalog. In fact, it appears only once in each of the books in The Kingkiller Chronicle and once in “The Lightning Tree.”

Through dangerous trial and error I discovered the proper way to slit a purse and pick a pocket.NW 184

This one, like a lot of the phrasing in The Name of The Wind, almost seems like an accident. Or more properly a coincidence.  There’s a small chance that this will spin as an example of Kvothe’s slightly out of sync notions of right, good, and proper. It’s difficult to imagine him having any qualms about bringing the weight of his desire sown on the world.

“So this is for you. I’ve brought what grammarie I have to bear on it. So it will stay green and living longer than you’d think. I gathered the holly in the proper way and shaped it with my own hands. Sought, wrought, and moved to purpose.”WMF 16

I’ve mentioned before how it seems as though some effort was put into partially aligning Auri and Bast. And this is no different. Pat’s said that Faen magic is fundamentally different from mortal magic, but there are eerie similarities.

Bast touched the trunk with his fingertips and made a slow circuit of the tree. He went deasil, the same direction as the turning sun. The proper way for making. Then he turned and switched hands, making three slow circles widdershins. That turning was against the world. It was the way of breaking. Back and forth he went, as if the tree were a bobbin and he was winding and unwinding.Rogues

This is interesting for a few reasons. It’s a second instance associated with Bast making him the second most significant character related to the proper way of doing things. It reflects a concern on his part about making and unmaking, with and against the turning of the world. And it uses a sewing or weaving metaphor which is somewhat arbitrary in its own context but oddly resonant with Auri making a blanket.

That’s probably enough about three sentences. Auri finds she doesn’t have any tears despite being weary and disappointed. She takes the blanket to Billows to let it blow in the steady wind that ultimately circulates through the Archives. It doesn’t help. She takes it to Old Ironways to bathe in the moonlight. It doesn’t help.

She takes it through Winnoway and Draughting. Etymologically these would both be places with steady air currents as well. Draughting has “a maze of wires” which is almost as interesting as the machinery in Throughbottom. She returns to Mantle and tries wrapping it around the “horrid, galling, stubborn brazen gear.” At this point everything is colored by her disappointment. Her compassion is turning to cruelty. She decides to try Wains.

In the sitting room she tries the couch. In desperation, she tries the floor.

But no. It didn’t fix things at all. She knew it then. She’d known all along, really. Nothing was going to make the blanket right again.

Angry, she thinks maybe she can at least swap it, or something else, for one of the sheets resting in the wardrobe in Tumbrel. Once there, she notes the vanity has “a sinister bent.” It’s a clever pun on her attitude. She sees it because she’s herself untrue. Her own vanity is leading to poor choices.

But tanglehaired and sticky, all unwashed and hollow as she was, she was hardly in the proper state for mending. She was in no mood to tend to the ungrateful thing.

While she tries to exchange the blanket for a sheet, her hair catches fire, ’cause th world finds her similarly ungrateful. She catches her foot on the stairs, not falling, but almost. And when she recovers her blanket’s lying on the bare stone. There’s no fixing that. She heads back to port and stuffs it in the wine rack.

arch

Some of the illustrations in the hardcover span two pages, creating a frame or a cutout. This is one of them. In the Kindle edition, they’re inserted into the text at relatively appropriate points, but they lack the composition and probably the impact of of the printed text. And in this case it’s difficult to determine what’s being depicted. Is it an egress from Mantle? Is it the archway from Simonetti’s apparent drawing of Old Ironways? Does my confusion mirror Auri’s?

The truth she realizes is that she’s the one making a mess of things. She has a rinse. There’s no soap for washing. And then she gives up and goes to bed, thinking that will solves the problem of the day.

It’s been unclear how Auri’s days work. Here it looks like she goes until she’s tired again and then sleeps. So I don’t think they have a necessary one to one relationship with the days in the parent text. They might, but they don’t have to. This attempt at sleep created the tension between six days and seven I talked about in Part X, reifying the weird ring woven by these central chapters. In a sense, the story gets to have it both ways.

We’ll finish up this long digression next time.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part XI.ii – THE ANGRY DARK

On the way back to Mantle, Auri stops at The Silver Twelve, apparently no longer worried it might be black.

All draggled and smirched she took a moment to dunk herself in the pool

I’m willing to be most of us have seen bedraggled and besmirched at some point, but these forms seem to occur more infrequently.  I remember draggle from “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.” Both seem to be older usages which fit in nicely with nekkid and chimbley.

She couldn’t think of going back to Bakery to dry.

I’m starting to think that Bakers, from page 22, might have been an error that made it into print. It appears only the one time, with an illustration. But the other references to Bakery all involve heat and this one specifically drying off. And going back to do so. There could be two places with a similar function, of course. It just seems odd.

She hears a tiny animal in distress. Worried that something might be drowning she panics and runs about without taking proper stock of the situation. She’s still making bad decisions. The world is still against her. And the light from the spirit lamp is uneven and shifting.

And echoes came from everywhere, scattered by the pipes and water in The Silver Twelve, so ears were hardly any help at all.

When I said, in part VII.ii that the nightjar telling her there was a leak in an iron pipe was strange I got some feedback about how there was a simple explanation. Namely that she was unusually accustomed to her environment. While my comment was more about the nightjar and its specific action, this bit seems to imply that under normal circumstances even discerning where a sound is coming from might be difficult.

Anyway, she finds a young skunk in the pool and manages to scoop it out of the water.  It bites her.

It sunk its teeth into the meaty bit between her finger and her thumb.

There’s no real reason to connect this to The Wise Man’s Fear other than the similar description. However, folks have come up with more from less, so it’s worth noting that Kote gets a holly thorn in approximately the same place.

The innkeeper’s fingers fumbled clumsily, snapping the holly branch and jabbing a thorn deep into the fleshy part of his thumb.WMF 15

She’s obliged to endure the pain and hold the rodent carefully cupped in her hands as it scratches her chest and even bites her again.  She navigates by moonlight to Old Ironways where she lets it out of the Underthing through a grate.Simonetti 2

In the French edition of The Slow Regard of Silent Things, La Musique du Silence (Bragelonne), the illustrations are done by Marc Simonetti, cover artist for Pat’s work in much of Western Europe and South America. There aren’t many descriptions of Old Ironways, and I’m unclear where his illustrations fall in the book, but this could be a depiction. There’s a suggestion of railroad tracks, which would make sense given the name.  However, we haven’t heard anything about locomotives in The Kingkiller Chronicle.  Still, it’s interesting, and the art is striking.

Auri walks back to the Silver Twelve and soaks her sore hand. The entire time, it hasn’t been explicit that she wasn’t clothed. In retrospect, it’s obvious, but the text doesn’t make a thing out of it. It’s not focused on her nudity, whether nekkid or naked. It’s possible it even makes a comment on that after she puts her dress back on.

It felt like everything was leering at her in the yellow light.

While she feels that way, the reader isn’t encouraged to leer at her, but rather to experience what’s significant to her. Prurient interest might motivate individual readers to dwell on her body, but for the average reader she simply is, clothed or not. In another parallel with “WHAT A LOOK ENTAILS,” this is the only other chapter to use leering.

She takes the long way back to Mantle so she doesn’t have to pass her mirror. In a sense, she’s avoiding her vanity, which is something that’s addressed rather amusingly later.  I’ll cover it in part XI.iii.

Coming into Port, she saw that nearly everything was wrong. Of course. It was just that sort of day.

Here it’s made explicit that nothing is going right for her. And she can’t help making it worse. She slams the lamp down hard enough to make the flame leap. She moves the bottle of holly berries, which might be another connection to Kote’s puncture wound, considering but ultimately deciding against putting it next to the Book of Secrets.

The Book of Secrets

I wonder, and so have several others, if it’s another copy of the the one Kvothe found in the archives: “a slim volume called The Book of Secrets buried deep in the Dead Ledgers.”WMF 129 Auri’s considered gifting it to him. IS it because of the Chandrian poem?

The Chandrian move from place to place,
But they never leave a trace.
They hold their secrets very tight,
But they never scratch and they never bite.
They never fight and they never fuss.
In fact they are quite nice to us.
They come and they go in the blink of an eye,
Like a bright bolt of lightning out of the sky.

She moves the resin.  She moves the laurel. She moves the stone Amyr. Having the book and the figurine so close together textutally makes me think maybe there is a connection. Heck, the description fits both a Ciridae, and Kvothe himself.

The tiny stone figurine perched high upon the wine rack, as if it were so much better than the rest of them.

She considers taking a bite of the honeycomb purely for pleasure.  But she’s gross and doesn’t want to smirch it.  Which is probably wise.

With Port in order she moves on to Mantle.  She rearranges her cedar box and cleans up the matches from earlier.  Everything else is in order.  Well, almost everything.  We’ll take a look at her blanket next time.

Posts should come regularly this week.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part XI.i – THE ANGRY DARK

WHEN AURI WOKE on the fourth day, things had changed.

Things are different. It’s not just a fold in the narrative, a turning toward the end, but it is definitely that.  It’s interesting because the ring expands here.  Not only is the chapter parallel to “HOLLOW” in some creative ways, it also nods to “WHAT A LOOK ENTAILS.” Look at the beginnings.  These are the days that begin in darkness. They rhyme. The second day is a turning day

So today was a tapering day. A burning day.

It’s a tapering day not because she makes candles, but because the narrative is narrowing back to its beginning from this point forward. She intended to use a candle, or course.  However, it’s telling that she couldn’t light it. Like an incongruous foot in a line of poetry, it points to a deeper meaning. It’s a burning days because Foxen is “full of mountains” and unusable, unavailable. My best guess is that mountains refer to it’s figurative inaccessibility. She’ll have to rely on flame for light, which will cause a little bit of trouble.

spirit lamp

This chapter begins addressing in earnest something only hinted at so far. Want, desire, is attached to wickedness. It’s somehow fundamentally wrong.

But for half a minute she wished it was a different sort of day, even though she knew that nothing good could come from wanting at the world. Even though she knew it was a wicked thing to do.

She’s nonetheless compelled to behave as though it’s a different sort of day,  Despite being a bad day for doing, she has much to do.  And so she acts as though it’s a doing day.

The world seems to resist. Her matches fail, leaving her to navigate in the dark.  She’s left without soap, which is devastating to her normal routine. And we’ll come to several other minor setbacks and annoyances.

She’s an imperfect creature. She’s come to some unusual understanding of the world, but not herself. This isn’t a complaint. The text, both The Slow Regard of Silent Things and The Kingkiller Chronicle, are explicit about her name being new. This chapter vaguely refers to the time before she had it.

She had been sitting like this, empty as eggshell. Hollow and chest-heavy in the angry dark when she’d first heard him playing. Back before he’d given her her sweet new perfect name.

Not having a name, nor knowing it intimately, Auri’s wants and desires can be mitigated and yet misunderstood at the same time.That’s also the first of two doubled title drops in “THE ANGRY DARK.” It has to carry the burden of “HOLLOW” as well, since the latter was given over to metatextual function.

Auri makes her way in the dark. She passes through both Scaperling and Dunnings, reinforcing the parallels with “WHAT A LOOK ENTAILS,” the only other chapter featuring those areas. New areas of the Underthing in this chapter include The Black Twelve, The Silver Twelve, Emberling, Bakery, Old Ironways, Winnoway, and Draughting.

Damp Early Treeand moldy from Scaperling and sticky with webs from Dunnings, she finally arrives at Tree. In the Worldbulders 2014 Hangout with Nate Taylor, Pat revealed that part of the name for Tree came from a simple riddle.  What kind of tree has food in it?

They also revealed one of the earlier designs for Tree where it looks more like a kitchen with shelves over a a sink-like chill well, hanging pans, and a full body image of Auri.

She finds and lights her spirit lamp. She rinses her hands and face and feet in the chill well. She eats the turnip and the remaining fig.

From there she makes her way to Bakery to replenish her soap. Her stores are missing, eaten by some intrepid rodent. We see her angry for the first time. She denies the rodent’s being, calling it a thing. It’s fairly significant since she tends to allow most objects a rudimentary self.

Reaching out , she took the tuft of fur between her fingers. The gesture was so tight with rage she feared she’d snap and crack the world in two.

It’s unclear here whether she could. Is her fear legitimate.  Or is it the hyperbole of excessive emotion.  While it’s probably the latter, I think the remaining chapters create a context in which Auri sees that kind of unfettered feeling as a catalyst for the incredible misuse of power.

Is there a parallel here to the broken world? Is it this kind of overwhelming desire that engendered so much strife?

She stamped her foot. She hoped the greedy thing shit for a week. She hoped it shit its awful self inside-out and backward, then fell into a crack and lost its name and died alone and hollow-empty in the angry dark.

With the second double drop, Auri wishes her worst moments on the thief. The eater. The thing. While it’s understandable in its way, it’s also somewhat terrifying. So, Auri isn’t all butterflies and flowers. Witnessing her rage prepares us for the reveals in the final chapters.

Her rage turns to disgust and she casts the tuft of fur away. Exasperated, she tries to run her hands through her hair and finds even that difficult. Behaving as though its a doing day when it’s not is contrary.

For a second her hard eyes went all brimful, but she blinked them back.

Because she cried on the third day, she cannot on the fourth. Like the chapter titles, this will come up again. Enraged, she storms back toward Mantle.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part X – Hollow

What do we make of this? It’s the shortest chapter in Rothfuss, isn’t it? It’s six words long. Or is it seven if we count the chapter title?

Hollow

Setting aside potential references to John 11:35, we have to find a way to interpret this. It could simply be a bad day. The worst day. Auri struggles through portions of the surrounding days, but they’re never characterized by a single action or emotion.

The consensus seems to be that “HOLLOW” corresponds to chapter seven of The Wise Man’s Fear, “Admissions.” Kvothe gets dosed with the plum bob and ends up bawling in Auri’s arms.

“You can say it,” Auri said softly. “It’s okay if you say it.”
“I’m never going to see her again,” I choked out. Then I began to cry in earnest.
“It’s okay,” Auri said softly. “I’m here. You’re safe.”WMF 77

The parent text never mentions her crying, but it’s told from Kvothe’s extremely self conscious point of view, especially at that moment. If “HOLLOW” is a corresponding reference to that day, to that scene, then there might be ample reason for Auri to cry during or after it.  Her pity for Kvothe could be overwhelming.

Physically, it’s at the halfway point of the book. Structurally, chapters and six form the central pair. In several ring narratives, there’s an isolated central chapter that serves as a pivot point, a fulcrum, but Pat’s don’t work that way. His chapters come in even numbers. The Wise Man’s Fear has seventy seven pairs including the Prologue/Epilogue. The Slow Regard of Silent Things has five with a latch.

Nonetheless, for the ring to exist, there has to be an obvious indicator that the narrative has turned.  Formally, then, this six word chapter is that obvious indicator.

If the end is going to join the beginning the composition will at some point need to make a turn toward the start. The convention draws an imaginary line between the middle and the beginning, which divides the work into two halves, the first, outgoing, the second, returning. In a long text it is important to accentuate the turn lest the hasty reader miss it, in which case the rest of the carefully balanced correspondences will also be missed.Thinking in Circles

It does so by by being an isolated page, an incredibly short chapter, and having quite a bit of emotional impact. We’ve been with Auri for awhile now and come to care for her well being. “HOLLOW” puts us at a distance and inspires our concern.

However, it does so at the expense of an easy set of parallels between the two chapters in the pair. It’s hard to see anything of “THE ANGRY DARK” in “HOLLOW.” Indeed, it’s impossible. The latter actually does all the work in that regard, which we’ll discuss over the next couple posts. One example, though, is that it contains two title drops that also include the title of this chapter.

It also has an interesting functional role that only becomes clear after finishing the book and reflecting on it or rereading it.  This six word chapter mirrors the length of the book.  The imaginary line between these six words and the next chapter marks not only the structural turning point, but the narrative midway mark as well.

While we assume the first time through that Auri’s knowledge at the beginning that she has seven days is correct, we know once we finish that she was wrong.  She had six days. So it’s quite clever to place six words, or is it seven, at the real center of the story.

The tension between six and seven is something that comes up again and again in The Kingkiller Chronicle. Whether it’s six betrayed cities and one spared in “Lanre Turned” or Kvothe’s inability to split his mind a seventh time, the two appear together only to highlight their difference.  Once of the best examples occurs after Kvothe plays ‘The Lay of Sir Savien Traliard.’

“You must play at my house some day,” Threpe said, then quickly held up a hand. “We won’t talk of that now, and I won’t take up any more of your evening.” He smiled. “But before I go, I need to ask you one last question. How many years did Savien spend with the Amyr?”
I didn’t have to think about it. “Six. Three years proving himself, three years training.”
“Does six strike you as a good number?”
I didn’t know what he was getting at. “Six isn’t exactly a lucky number,” I hedged. “If I were looking for a good number I’d have to go up to seven.”NW 410

It even has some peculiar similarities to “HOLLOW” and to the novella as a whole. In addition to the tension between six and seven, they share weeping, music, and some minor information about the Amyr.

That’s a lot of words to justify and contextualize a chapter that, in all honesty, feels right. It batters the reader and encourages hir to move on to the next page, to find out if Auri’s okay.

But I think it’s important to show that Pat’s not just messing around. This story wasn’t banged out in a short period of time like “How Old Holly Came to Be” or “The Lightning Tree.”  Both of those are compelling for their own particular qualities, but The Slow Regard of Silent Things was crafted carefully. It was handled gently and polished to a bright shine.  And it’s set deeply into the world, the narrative, and even the structure of the greater story.

We’ve covered the first three days. Next we’ll begin to close the circle with the next three.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part IX.ii – A QUITE UNCOMMON PLEASANT PLACE

After her skeletal cosseting and laurel poking, Auri continues to explore the forest.  Eventually she comes across a creek she’s never seen before.  This adventure outside the Underthing clearly isn’t unique, but it’s certainly, as the chapter title suggests, uncommon.  She hasn’t mapped or memorized the surrounding area.

Finally she comes to a farmhouse. How far away from Haven and the University is this place?

On the back porch, near the door, there was a small table. A wooden plate covered with an overturned wooden bowl rested there. Beside it was a bowl of clay, covered with a glazed clay plate.

Auri lifted the wooden bowl and found a piece of fresh brown bread beneath. It held health and heart and hearth. A lovely thing, and full of invitation. She put it in her pocket.

She knew the other bowl held milk, but the plate that covered it faced up. It was not for her. She left it for the faeries.

It’s worth quoting that bit at length because there’s plenty going on. Interestingly, Felurian mentions bread for faeries but not milk.

“many of the darker sort would love to use you for their sport. what keeps these from moonlit trespass? iron, fire, mirror-glass. elm and ash and copper knives, solid-hearted farmer’s wives who know the rules of games we play and give us bread to keep away. but worst of all, my people dread the portion of our power we shed when we set foot on mortal earth.”WMF 671

While Kote singles out ash and rowan in The Wise Man’s Fear, the rhyme quoted in Part IX.i might be a concatenation of two separate traditions, both with specific purposes.  Ash and elm keep the fae at bay, while proper disposal of things demonic requires ash and rowan. Since demon and faen are more or less synonymous in The Four Corners, the distinction between the two traditions elided.

That sort of fictive drift might account for why it’s okay for Auri to swipe the bread but not the milk.  The farmer’s wife inhabiting the house probably left both out for the same purpose. Whether it was for faeries or simply because it was cooler outside is debatable.  However, Auri’s response is specific to the tradition mentioned by Felurian.  The part we don’t see, but can infer, is that the dinnerware is supposed to be placed upright.

As she approaches the barn, she confronts a massive guardian. “There was a strange dog there, all gristle and bay.” It’s a clever bit of wordplay since she acquires both bay (laurel fruit) and gristle (suet) in the chapter. Channeling Snow White and Crocodile Dundee she befriends it and renders it unconscious.

Auri scales the barn and enters through the hayloft.  She grooms a horse, feeds a goat, and ignores a cat.

Auri AQUPP Turnipspent some time there, looking over everything. The grindstone. The quern. The small, well-fitted churn. A bearskin stretched upon a rack to cure. It was a quite uncommon, pleasant place. Everything was tended to and loved. Nothing she could see was useless, lost, or wrong.

Well, nearly nothing. Even the tightest ship lets slip a little water. A single turnip had gone tumbling from its bin to lie abandoned on the floor. Auri put it in her gathersack.

The turnip was featured in another unpublished illustration.

Aside from the embedded chapter title, we get a better sense of what she’s up to with regards to mending.  She’s looking to make use of the useless, find the lost, and right the wrong. Admittedly, it’s unclear to the reader what the rules for her gathering are.

She finds an icebox where everything’s mostly in good order, but some enraged suet is apparently fair game, and she can trade a length of lace for some honeycomb.

Then Auri took the clean white cloth that had held the hollyberry earlier and rubbed it with some butter. Then she broke off a piece of sticky comb the size of her spread hand and wrapped it up as tidy as can be.

She would have loved to have some butter too, as hers was full of knives.

She literally just took some butter. I’m just saying.  Maybe the lace covered it, but the text does not, can not, acknowledge it.  And so Auri’s revealed to be imperfect.  Thieving.  It comes up in her soap in the paired chapter.

Distraught at being unable to justify more butter, she stows her acquisitions and exits the barn. She kisses the dreaming dog. She skips away but catches a farmer’s daughter watching from a window.

What had she seen? Foxen’s green light shining through the slats? Auri’s tiny shape, obscured by hair like thistlepuff, barefoot in the moonlight?

ACrystal Treeside from elm and hawthorn, thistle is one of the words (okay, parts of words) that only appears in this chapter pair. Counting on the missing bread and the eerie alchemical light from the barn to do most of the imaginative work, Auri slips into cavorting faerie drag and cartwheels about. She leaves the crystal from Wains in a knothole in case the spying girl decides to investigate her otherworldly encounter.

It was the perfect thing. This was the perfect place. True, she was no longer in the Underthing. But even so, this was so true it could not be denied.

Proud and pleased, Auri returns to the graveyard and snacks on pine nuts, bread, and honey.

She licked her fingers too, as if she were some tawdry thing, all wicked and unseemly.

Here she uses the subjunctive mood to excuse herself for theft and impersonation.  It’s also wordplay.  The lace she left is tawdry.  Wicked and unseemly score the narrative in too many places to explore here.  And it recalls, by contrast, Kvothe’s impression of her perfect propriety while dining.

 

 


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part IX.i – A QUITE UNCOMMON PLEASANT PLACE

EVENTUALLY A CLOUD hid the moon. Smug thing. And Auri took the chance to scamper back into the Underthing.

Auri’s not afraid of the moon. She’s shown at various times in The Kingkiller Chronicle to be out when the moon’s phasing and when it’s absent from the sky. She waits for clouds to cross before the moon because the environment darkens. There’s nothing supernatural about her aversion to moonlight. However, she doesn’t want to be seen.

She’s disappointed that Kvothe wasn’t there.  That he wasn’t playing for her.  JohnPoint suggested after the last post that this second day corresponded to chapter six, “Love,” of The Wise Man’s Fear.  So perhaps Kvothe was playing.  Perhaps Auri somehow sensed it.

But she found a large tangle of dry wood in Umbrel, washed down the grates in some forgotten storm. Ash and elm and hawthorn. So much wood it took six trips to carry all of it to Mantle.

This is as good a spot as any to note the telltales of ring composition between A QUITE UNCOMMON PLEASANT PLACE and its paired chapter, ASH AND EMBER.  Heck, it might be the best place. Elm and hawthorn appear only in those two chapters along with acorns and suet. But the craft extends in a different direction that some of the other pairs.

Almost everything Auri picks up in this chapter makes an appearance in the one across the ring.  Much of it goes into or is at least involved in the soap making process.  The rest is eaten or stored. She actually returns to Umbrel with two of the items she finds together later to perform some alchemical factoring. She laughs, for different reasons, at the end of each.

The particular woods are noteworthy as well. Ash and elm feature prominently in The Name of the Wind in two distinct contexts. The first is the nursery ryhme about disposing demons. It appears in the frame…

“Let me tell you what to do.
Dig a pit that’s ten by two.
Ash and elm and rowan too—”
NW 39

… and the narrative:

The mayor nodded eagerly and singsonged, “Dig a pit that’s ten by two. Ash and elm and rowan too.” He cleared his throat.NW 646

There are all kinds of hints littered throughout The Slow Regard of Silent Things that Auri is only a former student despite Kvothe’s “moon fae” diminutive.  Auri interacts unremarkably with iron.  Her abilities are eschewed rather than limited.  And she has no trouble with ash and elm, even though both are mentioned right along with iron and fire by Felurian.

They’re also involved in a minor naming controversy.

“Fine,” I said, as I fished the leaf out of my mouth. It was yellow, shaped like a spearhead. “The wind has decided for us. Master Ash.”
“Are you sure it isn’t Master Elm?” she asked, eyeing the leaf. “It’s a common mistake.”
“Tastes like an ash,” I said. “Besides, elm is feminine.”
She nodded seriously, though her eyes were dancing. “Ash it is then.”
NW 558

I don’t think I’d noticed until now that ash and elm simultaneously recall something and point directly away from it. At any rate, both are hardwoods ideal for making lye, or “caustic lies,” which dovetails in the paired chapter and might suggest something about Denna’s patron.  The ash/elm mistake comes up gain when Kvothe reconnects with her in chapter sixty-four of The Wise Man’s Fear.

After gathering the wood, Auri washes.AQUPP Haven  She changes back into the dress with more pockets and shoulders her gather sack.  She heads out of the Underthing.

She took the final piece of Mandril more by memory than sight, stepping carefully until she stood behind the upright runoff grate that looked out onto nothing much except the bottom of a gully. Auri moved to stand next to the heavy bars . From there she saw the bulk of Haven up upon the hill, a shadow looming large against the starry sky.

The accompanying image here didn’t make it into the final version of the book.  It’s Nate’s initial drawing of the exit from Mandril which was deemed too busy and maybe too revealing.  It’s not exactly canon, but it gives a decent sense of what Haven might look like.

Auri waits again for the clouds to obscure the moon and dim its light so she can move without being seen.  If Kvothe’s right about her, and Elodin seems to agree, avoiding Haven is probably a top priority.

The image that appears in the book is more spare, leaving much more to the imagination but retaining the mood of the rejected drawing.AQUPP 1Auri disappears into the woods.  She finds a small forgotten graveyard while gathering pinecones.  And we get a textual clarification about why she avoids the moon.

The moon was out again, but she was lower now, and bashful. Auri smiled at her, glad for the company now that she was no longer On Top of Things and Haven was far gone behind.

It’s only a threat because it reveals her to prying eyes. Once she’s alone and isolated, when nobody can see her on top of a University roof or skulking about the Rookery starved and half naked, it’s no big deal.  The light’s actually kind of handy.

Here on the edge of the clearing the moon showed acorns scattered on the ground. Auri spent a few minutes picking up the ones with perfect hats and tucking them into her gathersack.

In the paired chapter, she makes a meal of these. Perfect hats rang a bell and I tracked it down in Rogues. In another faen parallel, Bast demands similar acorns from Pem and Wilk.

“I also need twenty-one perfect acorns,” he said. “No holes, with all their little hats intact…”“The Lightning Tree”

Grave TreeShe finds an lonely laurus nobilis, odd in this forgotten place. Inhaling the aroma of bay leaves, she sees a gap between the roots, perfect for disposing of human remains.

Nodding, Auri reached into her gathersack and brought out the bone that she had found the day before . She bent down and tucked it deep inside the dark and hollow space beneath the tree.

Satisfied, she gathers a couple handfuls of laurel berries.  They’ll themselves be the source of some consternation in the later chapter. And we’ll finish this one on Friday.