The Larkin Ledgers

Like an endless chain of half-built houses


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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.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.