Book Review: The Slow Regard of Silent Things

"This story is for all the slightly broken people out there,” writes Pat Rothfuss in the Author’s Endnote of The Slow Regard of Silent Things. “I am one of you. You are not alone. You are all beautiful to me.”

I just put this book down. Church bells are chiming down the street outside my apartment and I can’t stop looking at the book cover, a Shutterstock image of stone stairs, a tunnel tinted blue, lit by a full moon.

It took me over a month to read these 159 pages, mostly because I was saving them like a favourite candy, or a vintage bottle of wine.

Rothfuss has done something unique. And I don’t mean a clever plot twist or a memorable character. Although Auri is impossibly memorable, and as she prepares for her visitor, she goes deep diving, places things on shelves, and makes soap. Her days are named: a turning day, a doing day, a finding day. Making, tapering, burning, deep, waxing, white days. At times Auri is a tangled mess but also has excitement fizzing in her chest. She sprints and washes and weeps and sweeps her way through each day in the Underthing where things tick and click, and tremble and whisper. There is grace, patience, a kiss, and nothing. There are clay pots and silver bowls. Jars and bottles and berries and honeycomb. A brazen gear and a white bone.

Rothfuss warns his readers from the outset, “You might not want to buy this book.”

This story transports and transforms. As a reader, I am taken into a world I would have never known otherwise. And while this is true of other stories, there is something magically tactile about The Slow Regard of Silent Things. It is make-believe, yet real to the touch. The story appeals to all things sensual. A deeply entrenched sense of truth permeates the pages. Spiritual, perhaps. But that is up to you.

Rothfuss recaps his thoughts on readers' expectations in the Author’s Endnote in a conversation with Vi Hart:

“Readers expect certain things. People are going to read this and be disappointed,” he told Vi. “It doesn’t do what a normal story is supposed to do.”

To which Vi replied, “Fuck those people. Those people have stories written for them all the time. What about me? Where’s the story for people like me?”

So, no. You might not want to buy this book. But…as Rothfuss puts it: “If you love words and mysteries and secrets. If you are curious about the Underthing and alchemy…Well, then this book might be for you.”

This story doesn’t do what a normal story is supposed to do.

It does much more.

A Christmas on Mars: the trilogy (part THREE) -- the final chapter

Tibb's Eve is here again, and with it this year, comes the final chapter of A Christmas on Mars.

Look at our Martion girl Jessica who went to  bed in her gold onesie, rich yet sad...but ho ho ho! Much to her surprise, she woke just in the nick of time to have an important life-changing experience. 

Ah, closure. 

Be sure to scroll down to see the final grade I got on the story. Please post a comment if you agree or disagree. I would love to know your thoughts on my teacher's indecision. 

I'm cranking out this post while listening to CBC Radio 2 Morning on the headphones in my husband's office because my mom is still sleeping on the couch in the living room where I normally write. The wiser thing would have been to write this in advance, but, well, I didn't think it all the way through. As with most writing, and in the spirit of some excellent George Saunders consult, if it (a story, or in this case, a blog post) surprises you (the author) it will also be a surprise for the reader. George has said: "Don't be afraid to be confused. Try to stay permanently confused." I take comfort in the notion--in both life and writing--as I spend a fair amount time confused and surprised. Cheers to that George, and thank you.

For those who haven't looked up Tibb's Eve on Wikipedia like I did (also Tip's Eve or Tipsy Eve. Or Tweebles or Tweed's as my neighbour has been calling it), it's an excuse to get together with friends for a drink on the first night of Advent. It would seem, to me, to make more sense, if it was the last day of Advent to start drinking with friends, which this year is tomorrow, December 24th, when we are already going to the in-laws for Christmas Eve dinner, so everything is going to happen on the same day. So tonight it is. Besides, it's not like we need reason to have a drink with friends but leave it to the Southern Newfounlanders to make one up. And thanks again again to Tom Power and Talia Shlanger for putting on a great morning radio show. 

Also, for a little more George Saunders wisdom, while I try to finish this post that keeps getting longer, I came across this lovely, 7 minute short film, George Saunders: On Story from the Story Is a State of Mind Facebook group. The film is full of juicy Saundersesque nuggets like, "It's your own discontent with it [a story] that in some slow mysterious way urges to higher ground, often it will do so in ways that surprise you." 

I could say the same about this post. 

And what a year of surprises it's been. Arsenal Pulp Press decided to publish my book (and I've finally come clean about Moving Parts being my second book now with A Christmas on Mars out in the open), we snuck cousin Mike into the family golf tournament and cousin Harvey's birthday party, my nephew Adam ran off and got married in Vegas, and today we're going to see the matinee of Phantom of the Opera--a surprise for my mom who is probably now awake on the couch and I should go an make her some coffee and let her know we're heading out to "explore" King Street later today. So if you know her, or see her, please don't tell her. I want it to be a surprise. 

May your holiday be filled with surprise and confusion, and in the words of George Saunders, "...go out in the world and see what it is…come back in befuddled, then try [to write it]. Do something beautiful."





A Christmas on Mars: the trilogy (part TWO)

To recap, Jessica is a 109 little martion girl  (spelling as per the original copy) because in 1983, my twelve year old mind made up the idea that on Mars one was born at 115 and started aging backward.

It's worth noting we're a day ahead here. It's December 22nd--happy solstice by the way--but today's excerpt of the story is taking place on December 23rd, Tibb's Eve. I learned about Tibb's Eve four years ago from Tom Power, the talented and entertaining host of CBC Radio 2 Morning, originally from Newfoundland, who tells perfectly lame jokes and has great taste in music. I'm listening to Radio 2 Morning as I write this and I highly recommend the show to anyone who needs a boost in the morning to get them going but Tom's off this week and Talia Shlanger is doing a good job sitting in for him. Maybe Tom will read this. Or maybe he's busy watching the new Star Wars movie, or doing Newfoundland things getting ready for Tibb's Eve tomorrow. Much like myself, heading off to the airport shortly to pick up my mom who is flying in from Saskatchewan--where I'm from originally, so yeah, I hear ya Tom Power, from one outsider to another. My mom is visiting us for the holidays and she doesn't know we're having a Tibb's Eve party tomorrow but that should become clear soon enough. 

And now back to six year old Jessica (in Earth years) the very, very, rich, yet poor young Martion girl who had never seen the Space Santa.


Check back tomorrow for the conclusion of A Christmas on Mars and probably some stuff about Tibb's Eve.

A Christmas on Mars: the trilogy (part ONE)

Some of you may have heard about the new Star Wars movie that opened last week. A week before Christmas, Lucasfilm put out a film directed by J.J. Abrams, three decades after the original film was released in 1977.  

Also three decades ago, I wrote (and illustrated) a book. So in spirit of all things intergalactically related, the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens inspired me to reveal my first book, A Christmas on Mars (1983, Wainwright Publishing Co. Inc.) to the world. 

You heard it here first.

Moving Parts wasn't my first publication. 

In the gallery to the right and below, you will find PART ONE of A Christmas on Mars.

Coincidentally, my name used to be Lana Starchuck, as you will see in the copyright pages of the book. So, Star Wars...Starchuck. More Christmas synergy right there.

Please note: The book is not a trilogy. It is one story. Nine pages long. But Star Wars is always a trilogy. So I'm spreading this story out over three days this week, and if anyone chooses to celebrate Tibb's Eve on December 23rd like I do, you can do so along side the completion of the full reveal of the book. 

I will also be sending a note to Dan at Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids, and maybe A Christmas on Mars will have a live reading someday. 

But for now... 

Will Jessica will get to see the Space Santa?

Will there be more glitter?

What does Mars have in store for Jessica?

Where will she spend all her triangular shaped Mars money?

Come back tomorrow for the continuing story of A Christmas on Mars...