The Larkin Ledgers

Like an endless chain of half-built houses


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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 VIII.i BEAUTIFUL AND BROKEN

AFTER TAKING A MOMENT for her leisure, Auri got a drink of water from the pool in Mote , then headed back down to gather up the brazen gear.

There are more sources of potable water in the Underthing than one might expect. First Cricklet, then Tree, and now Mote, mentioned only in passing. It’s probably small, I guess. Audiobook listeners probably imagined something else, a body of water in a channel.

The names she gave them, nonsensical at first, fit like a glove when I finally saw what they described. NW 699

In some cases, like Tenance and Mantle, Auri’s names for the areas of the Underthing are relatively easy to parse. Others, like Rubric and Van, require a bit more rumination. Some are explained outright and others, like Mote, not at all. Mostly it’s no big deal.  The story rhythmically beats on. But sometimes a sense of place might be nice. So would a magical horse that fits in my pocket.

I’m developing a weird affection for the brevity of The Slow Regard of Silent Things. I know a lot of readers were disappointed by the size of the book and the limited scope of the story. But it makes some of the structural analysis significantly easier.

Unlike the other work outside the main trilogy, Pat spent some time on this one.  “How Old Holly Came to Be” was written in a single day and “The Lightning Tree” in a little over a month. This novella developed over a period of close to two years. The extra time tends to show itself in the scaffolding of the story.  Neither of the other two stories is a ring and neither has a refined alchemical sensibility.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things has both. Like the previous two chapters, or pairs of chapters, I just want to touch on the ring to demonstrate that it’s there. How it makes meaning in the story will have to wait for some other project.

Briefly, both chapter three, BEAUTIFUL AND BROKEN, and chapter eight, ALL TO HER DESIRE, begin with the brazen gear.  In fact, it’s on a narrow ledge in both as well; in The Gray Twelve and in Mantle, respectively.  This chapter ends with Auri entirely exposed, outside the Underthing anticipating and perhaps disappointed.  It’s paired partner ends at the heart of Auri’s world with her at rest and reassured. And these are the only chapters in the novella where the word Temerant appears.

Temerant

Pat scooped himself in July at the conclusion of the Geeks Doing Good fundraiser. The name of the world The Kingkiller Chronicle takes place in, or on depending on your regional dialect, was the $100,000 stretch goal. “This is something I’ve known for a while, but I’ve been keeping it under my hat. Making sure I really liked it. Making certain I was sure of it. Names are important things, or so I hear.”

It set off a storm of renewed speculation around a title mentioned three times in The Wise Man’s Fear.

Elodin made a disgusted noise. “I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t read them.” He wrote En Temerant Voistra on the board and circled it. “I don’t even know if this one is in the Archives at all.” He put a question mark next to it and continued to write. “I will tell you this. None of them are in Tomes. I made sure of that. You’ll have to hunt for them in the Stacks. You’ll have to earn them.”WMF 120

None of the students in “Introduction to Not Being a Stupid Jackass” are able to find it, which only added to its mysterious allure. Commenters on the Patrick Rothfuss Reread had noted years before that “temerant” was the third person plural form of the Latin verb temero, but speculations about the title took many forms with many reasons. If Temerant literally means something like “we dishonor” or “we violate,” it tracks well with Lanre’s lament in The Name of the Wind.

It also makes some sense in the context of Auri’s desire to mend the broken world.

Anyway, I should probably get back to the chapter at hand.  Where was I?  That’s right, the second sentence. The brazen B story.

It was patient as three stones, but still, it deserved to find its proper place as much as anyone.

This is actually another clever way of placing the novella within the parent text. When Auri meets up with Kvothe On Top of Things in chapter eleven of The Wise Man’s Fear, “Haven,” she says:

“Play for me! I have been as patient as two stones together,” she said. “You are just in time. I could not be as patient as three stones.”WMF 103

One stone is six days.  Two stones is seven to twelve days.  Three stones would be thirteen to eighteen days.  But by using the same metaphor that’s used to frame the time period in the novel, Pat sets the story structurally as well as temporally. It’s a nice touch.

Auri carries the gear to Wains.  She tries setting it on the couch in the sitting room she recently opened.  But it doesn’t work.

To be all answerful with all that knowing trapped inside. To be beautiful and broken.

Beautiful and Broken

Oddly enough, “all that knowing” is nearly the title of chapter thirty six of The Wise Man’s Fear. And that title is dropped within the chapter as well.

Stonebridge rose ahead of us: two hundred feet from end to end, with a high arch that peaked five stories above the river. It was part of the Great Stone Road, straight as a nail, flat as a table, and older than God. I knew it weighed more than a mountain. I knew it had a three-foot parapet running along both its edges.

Despite all this knowing, I felt deeply uneasy at the thought of trying to cross it.WMF 272

That in itself isn’t particularly revealing.  Pat tends to use phrases from his chapters as their titles.  It’s more significant when he doesn’t.  But this one is interesting because neither the gear nor Kvothe is content with all this knowing.  And because Stonebridge is as much a mystery as the Underthing.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part V – AUTHOR’S FOREWORD

The AUTHOR’S FOREWORD and the AUTHOR’S ENDNOTE are effectively the frame story for The Slow Regard of Silent Things.  They tell the reader that the book they’re holding almost stayed hidden in the dark, unknown.  Remind you of anyone?

Rothfuss stories are round.  Not all of them are rings, but there’s a strong tendency toward tying the ending directly to the beginning.  “The Lightning Tree” begins with a message from Rike Williams and ends on an anecdote about Nettie Williams.  “How Old Holly Came to Be” begins and ends with Old Holly.  The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear are twice framed.  The Prologues and Epilogues bracket the frame story which in turn encompasses the narrative.

So, while neither the foreword or endnote are necessary, they are functional.  They also give Pat the opportunity to let his readers know that he’s aware of the story’s idiosyncrasies.  It’s not the first time he’s included an apology.  Check out his introduction to “How Old Holly Came to Be” (OH) in Unfettered.

The story itself is a little odd. It’s from an odd perspective, and it covers a vast scope of time. The main character is odd. The language is odd. (OH)

Compare that to this statement from The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

Second, even if you have read my other books, I think it’s only fair to warn you that this is a bit of a strange story. I don’t go in for spoilers, but suffice to say that this one is . . . different. It doesn’t do a lot of the things a classic story is supposed to do. (TSRoST)

Despite the colorful anecdote his editor obviously didn’t throw a fit.  She let him format the foreword differently than the chapters, something they also did with the Prologues.  And with the book spending its first week at #2 on the Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers List, she had no reason to.

In some ways, this is as much an enticement to fans as it is a warning to potential new readers.

If you love words and mysteries and secrets. If you’re curious about the Underthing and alchemy. If you want to know more about the hidden turnings of my world. . . .

Yah, we’re in.  We’ve been talking and in some cases asking you directly about that for years, now.

I can’t decide if the illustration that follows is properly part of the AUTHOR’S FOREWORD or the first chapter, so I’m going to include it here.  This is the first canonical image of Auri, though it’s quite similar to Nate’s previous depictions.  She’s looking up through a drainage grate in what might be Old Ironways or Umbrel or nowhere at all,

Auri

 

We’ll start the story proper with the next post and cover “The Far Below Bottom of Things.”