367 Following


You kids get off my lawn. 

Brisingr - Christopher Paolini So, the library is demanding that I return this tome. I think I may be done reading. If I hadn't lost my real book, I never would have gotten 200 pages in. I only managed that reading every third page.

I'm sad because Eragon is my favorite book to love to hate. It's got so many things wrong with it: horrible sense of place, ridiculous "wisdom", bad magic, racial and gender assumptions that range from badly considered to offensive. But the book had a certain greasy charm. It's like your younger brother stole all your best fantasy fiction, and instead of learning how to masturbate most effectively like most 15 year olds, wrote this energetic, stupid, fun story. And when I say it's like that, what I mean is that's exactly what happened.

From the back flap: "Christopher Paolini...graduated from high school at fifteen after being homeschooled all his life." Really, Chris? Oh save me Jebus, there are too many jokes. I can't even decide. Anyway, enough ad hominem attacks. Let's move on to attacking his work.

At 17, Paolini writes the silly, stupid, but charmingly sincere Eragon. Now, in his third book, Paolini is maturing as a writer, and it's not a pretty sight. The energy of Eragon has been replaced by endless, leaden descriptions of landscape. He's replaced an exuberant, infectious passion for writers like Tolkien with an adolescent notion that mistakes ponderousness for insight. Paolini clearly wants his main characters to change and grow through the book, but lacks both the skill and self-awareness to do this. What's left is a bunch of whingeing over how bad responsibility sucks and how mean authority figures are. And how, Chris. What it is, my brother.

In one of the essays in How to Travel with a Salmon, Umberto Eco proposes a novel way to identity pornography. The identification of pornography is one of those legally relevant needs, and usually comes down to "I know it when I see it." Eco dismisses the usual "intention" arguments, pointing out instead that most pornography is light on plot. Pornography then shows movement or travel from one place or another wholly in real time. The scene opens, the gardener drives to the rich woman's house, he rings the doorbell: all of this occurs without a cut. The real time movement both pads the running time and allows for a suitable refractory period. More than money shots and girls gone wild, real-time movement constitutes the true hallmark of pornography.

It is in this way that Brisingr is pornographic. (No, sorry, not in that way - in fact, I could muster up a long diatribe about the faux heraldic chastity that typified everyone's sexual life in these kind of books, but that's almost a cliche, so I'll refrain.) I believe it to be the first book to be written almost entirely in real time. When Eragon runs through the desert for two days, it takes two days of thirst and deprivation for the reader to get through it. No doubt when I defend my thesis on post-modernism and the fractured narrative at Homeschool University, my readers will lob questions about Brisingr at me, pointing out how deeply experimental a traditional narrative can be.