Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 85-87

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CHAPTER EIGHTY-FIVE

Interlude—Fences

I guess Rothfuss was looking at his garden when he named this chapter.

A family- Mary, Hep, a young boy and their older daughter- come traipsing inside. Kvothe immediately sets about getting some cider for everyone. Including the kids. Because that’s a great idea, I guess. The boy is like too young to talk, I should add.

Hap took his, but the little girl hid behind her father, peering shyly around his shoulder.

To go on one of my patented diversions, I’ve noticed in fiction it’s always girls who are shy and timid around strangers (If a boy acts this way it’s usually because he’s playing the “strange mute kid” stereotype who is implied to have some sort of vague developmental disorder, which of course has its own connotations). When a lot of authors try to write kids they reach for these sort of platonic cultural ideals that don’t really have a whole lot to do with reality- look at the way kids and teenagers in games, comics, cartoons etc are routinely portrayed as ludicrously short for their stated ages- and it can be very telling which stereotypes get applied to which gender. The idea that there exists a set standard of behavior that people are supposed to follow based on gender norms is starting to be recognized as problematic thanks to the efforts of feminists, particularly as applied to the notion of a “good woman”, but I feel like ideal behavior based on gendered criteria isn’t recognized as a problem widely enough when it comes to children.

To get to the observation that triggered this little spiel: for a disturbingly large number of people the sentence I quoted above appears to be the ideal for young girls, where shyness and insecurity are seen as “cute” instead of being signs of potential self esteem issues. Not that there’s anything wrong with being shy of course, or that all people who are shy have underlying problems, but the idea that this is somehow an expression of proper femininity is weird and stupid.

Anyway what were we talking about?

Oh yeah Mary and what’s his name are coming to get letters written by Chronicler because blah blah blah whatever don’t care. There’s a lot of twee small-town gossip and then Bast tries to hold babby and doesn’t know how to hold babby so Kvothe sings a song, because if there’s one thing these books exemplify it’s- to quote a recent comment- “twee and boring”. As much I’m not enjoying the actual story, these flashes back to the present are almost unreadable.

Kvothe nodded, his expression grim

[…]

“Who has money to lend these days?” Kvothe asked grimly

[…]

Chronicler nodded. “They’re different,” he said grimly

[…]

“Everyone hates the bleeders,” Chronicler agreed darkly

IN THE GRIM DARKNESS OF KVOTHELAND THERE IS ONLY NODDING AND SMILING AND WINKING AND TWINKLING EYES

They’re talking about taxes and shit, in case you’re curious. I get the feeling Rothfuss is a libertarian judging by how long Kvothe spends going on about the evils of tax collectors.

CHAPTER EIGHTY-SIX

The Broken Road

Do they find the bandits in this chapter? Dear god please tell me they find the bandits

The adventure team sits around telling stories. Again. This time the story is about a boy named Jax (and presumably his buddy Daxter). I think I’ve managed to codify the three ways fantasy authors come up with names:

1) Use a European name

2) Use a European name but jumble the letters up

3) Use a European name but jumble the letters up and add in a few Xs and Vs

Jax is unlucky and unhappy and lives alone at the end of a “broken road” whatever the fuck that is. One day a “tinker” comes along and, heart-broken by the fact that Jax’s video game franchise never made the transition to current gen, offers to give him something from his pack.

Then Jax looked up at the tinker, his small face serious. “And if you can’t make me happy, what then? Will you give me the packs off your back, the stick in your hand, and the hat off your head?”

The tinker for some reason agrees to this and produces a succession of stuff from his pack, all of which fail to fill Jax’s dark soul with light. Jax claims that only the moon will do this and since the tinker isn’t omnipotent he relinquishes his earthly possessions, as per their wager. The the boy sets off to find the moon or whatever.

At this point Dedan interjects and him and Hespe start bickering, then Tempi says something zaaaaany and inappropriate like the crazy foreigner he is and it’s a one-way ticket to lulzville.

Behind his back, Hespe rolled her eyes, shaking her head.

People don’t fucking do that aaaaarhrfrigbhirbhgiegbhi

CHAPTER EIGHTY-SEVEN

The Lethani

Tempi and Kvotheneed to make a supply run walk down the road to town….. and into each other’s hearts. Platonically, I mean. Probably.

I turned my attention to the trees and immediately heard it: movement in the undergrowth.

Thank fucking God.

Oh wait, it turns out it’s just a “hart” and a “hind” which the internet tells me are a male and female deer. I always thought a female deer was a doe (a deer, a female deer) but whatever. No bandits, gotta stretch that page count out longer or all the fantasy jocks will make fun of Rothfuss in the fantasy locker room of fantasy high school.

Crosson wasn’t much as far as towns go. Twenty or thirty buildings with thick forest on every side. If it hadn’t been on the king’s highway, it probably wouldn’t even have warranted a name.

I’m really not sure Rothfuss is aware of the sorts of scale rural areas operate on. In an extremely isolated location like they’re in now twenty or thirty buildings would be the local equivalent of a capital city. When the town I live in was built it was just a coach stop and like a church and a pub, and it was considered a big deal because people weren’t comparing it to New York or Hong Kong, they were comparing it to nothing, which is all there was for miles in every direction. Out on the west coast there are still dinky little villages that have names because they’re the least-dinky location in a region high on dinkiness.

But since it was on the king’s highway, there was a reasonably stocked general goods store that supplied travelers and the scattering of nearby farms. There was a small post station that was also a livery and a farrier, and a small church that was also a brewery.

See, this is what I’m talking about. If it has all of this stuff then it’s name-worthy regardless of how big it is because it’s probably the only place in the immediate vicinity where you can get your beer brewed and horses liveried and your, uh, goats? You can get your goats…… farried. I don’t know what a farrier does.

Kvothe and Tempi head into the local bar/restaurant (did places like this even serve food in ye olden times?) and everyone is all “check it out it’s an Adem liek whoah”. It turns out they’re all out of work mercenaries who aren’t getting hired to guard caravans any more since all the caravan drivers keep getting murdered in the murder forest.

Just because yeh can’t roll dice dinna make me a criminal, souee,” he said with a thick northern accent

A “northern accent”. North of where? The country they’re in, wherever that is? The world? Do all people who live north have the same accent? This guy sounds like some sort of bizarre cross between a Hollywood Scottish person and Hagrid, so I guess “North” in Kvotheland is not-Scotland.

The guy swaggers over to start a random battle encounter by insulting Kvothe and asking Tempi to prove he’s worth the high pay the Adem charge.

“He says your mother is a person men pay money to have sex with.”

Tempi turned back to the mercenary and nodded graciously. “You are very kind. I thank you.”

Are you ready to have your puritanical sexual morality blown wide open?????

…. well you’re going to have to wait a bit, but it’s coming up later.

Tempi turned to me again. “I do not understand this man,” he said. “Is he attempting to buy sex with me? Or does he wish to fight?”

That was actually kind of funny. Sort of. I guess.

Kvothe talks about bar fights he’s witnessed in the past, resisting the urge to tell us that we could ever understand bar fights as well as he does.

Folk don’t get hurt as much as you’d expect. Bruises and split lips are usually the worst of it. If you’re unlucky you might lose a tooth or break an arm, but there’s a vast difference between a friendly bar fight and a back-alley koshing

I take it Kvotheland works on movie-logic, where you can break a bottle over someone’s head and they shrug it off. I don’t spend a lot of time in bars but I’ve heard some pretty grisly things about what the result of an out-of-control fight can be. Hell someone got stabbed to death at a bar right across the road from the college I went to. Although in their defence, a bar once saved me from danger when two junkies chased me down the street in Dublin and I ducked into one to escape, so there’s that.

A bar fight has rules and a host of unofficial judges standing around to enforce them. If things start to get vicious spectators are quick to leap in and break things up, because that’s what you’d want someone to do for you.

This seriously sounds like BS to me.

“There is only one woman,” Tempi said, looking Tam in the eye. “Is enough? You may bring one more.”

To partially spoil upcoming events: the Adem are a matriarchal society where women are highly respected as warriors and stuff. You may now cast your bets on whether Rothfuss handles this well.

Of course Tempi kicks all of their asses. Rothfuss is actually pretty good at writing fight scenes, which makes me wish he’s write more of them to alleviate the crushing tedium a bit.

Tempi walked to the side of the road, set down his heavy pack, and sat on the grass. “We must speak of the Lethani.

unagi-ross_friends

Tempi is going to teach Kvothe his secret warrior philosophy because……… I don’t know actually, just because I guess. Kvothe brings up the whole “storing words inside them” thing and Tempi confirms that this is nonsense, they’re just really awesome at fighting. He shows Kvothe he managed to deflect a headbutt in a manner that involves him pressing their bodies together in a decidedly homoerotic fashion.

 “This is still not good. My chest is not soft. But this man has a head harder than many.” His eyes twinkled a little, and I chuckled

fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

Anyway Tempi goes on with some bollocks about how the Lethani is many things, and it is doing the right thing, but not just doing it, knowing it, and being led to do it by knowing it or whatever. Basically it’s just an internal moral code, which Tempi seems to treat as some sort of astounding revelation for some reason. And also how to kick people in the face. Kvothe grasps this right away which, again, is treated as amazing even though it’s really not that hard a concept to grasp.

Next time: bandits? Please?

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29 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 85-87

  1. Austin H. Williams

    One of the things I remember hearing when I first embarked on the mystic quest to become A Writer was that it’s a good idea to read your works out loud, that way awkward phrasing and needless repetition will stand out, and you can snip them away as needed. This is basic advice, and yet, I’m wondering if Rothfuss has ever heard it. Crap, even “use as few adverbs as possible” fits under elementary advice, and Rothfuss flouts that time and again, too!

    ***

    I’m really not sure Rothfuss is aware of the sorts of scale rural areas operate on. In an extremely isolated location like they’re in now twenty or thirty buildings would be the local equivalent of a capital city.

    And more of Rothfuss showing his ass about how little he knows of history, sociology, or even basic logistics.

    ***

    Also, when he brings up the “Northern” accent, I was grateful that he didn’t have axe-wielding dwarves storm out of nowhere – but maybe that’s happening soon!

    Reply
  2. zephyrean

    “As much I’m not enjoying the actual story, these flashes back to the present are almost unreadable.”
    The search for the bandits is where I went from “hell no, a flashback” to “hell yes, a flashback”. At least those held the vague (obviously unfulfilled) promise of something interesting maybe happening, by dint of being set in the present.

    “I get the feeling Rothfuss is a libertarian judging by how long Kvothe spends going on about the evils of tax collectors.”
    Tax collectors are a generic fantasy evil oppression trope; as katz noted above, Rothfuss is copying Robin Hood, but I seriously doubt he’s doing that consciously. We’ve had a generic poison plot, are now in the middle of a generic bandit hunt and have yet to see a generic fairy forest, training montage and maiden rescue. (I don’t extend that accusation to the wizard school, because school stories are a legitimate standalone theme, while episodic filler crap is not.) These generic tropes have long since achieved cultural critical mass, and now writers source their settings from other fantasy books, and readers base their expectiations and criteria of authenticity on other fantasy books
    (a process which is by no means unique to books or fantasy but especially noticeable here; unlike the multimedia symphony/cacophony of a movie, a writer only has one voice, and if it sounds like copypasta, that’s it; and when literally anything you can imagine is on the table and the result is whitey-white faux-Medieval Europe, that’s it, too).
    And that’s ultimately the reason for nerd cred trivia (farriers) and blatant ass-pulls (rules for bar-room brawls).

    “You can get your goats…… farried. I don’t know what a farrier does.”
    I bet Rothfuss lifted the list of medieval professions (along with the notion that those are authentic and lend nerd cred) from a Dungeon Master’s Guide. Rothfuss is like a cross between Joe Sweden and Gary Gygax’s fantasy version of Gary Gygax (and no, none of that is supposed to be a compliment).

    Reply
    1. Austin H. Williams

      Thinking on Ronan’s comments about how godawful the interludes are, it caused me to wonder if these were sections that he’d actually had completed in his first draft, put in a placeholder for, or had his editor force him to write?

      Reply
  3. Orryia

    A doe can refer to female animals of other species, such as rabbits. (But I only know that because I read Watership Down.) So maybe he wanted to be more specific, or something.

    Reply
  4. magpiewhotypes

    “No bandits, gotta stretch that page count out longer or all the fantasy jocks will make fun of Rothfuss in the fantasy locker room of fantasy high school.”

    ha, no homo in fantasy locker room of fantasy high school

    Reply
  5. Reveen

    Speaking of shyness and gendered bullshit, thumb through the love and sex scenes in a bunch of books and count how many times the words “shy”, “timid”, or “coy” then refer back to any description of little girls and resist the urge to jump out the nearest window.

    This may or may not become relevant later, I don’t know, probably.

    Reply
  6. braak

    Also, this:

    A bar fight has rules and a host of unofficial judges standing around to enforce them. If things start to get vicious spectators are quick to leap in and break things up, because that’s what you’d want someone to do for you.

    Doesn’t sound like any bar fight I’ve ever seen or heard of or narrowly avoided.

    Reply
    1. Austin H. Williams

      My jaw literally dropped when I read his “deconstruction” of bar fights. THIS, beyond all doubt, is proof that Rothfuss has never been in a barfight, has never seen a barfight, and I’m beginning to wonder if he even knows what “bars” or “fights” indicate. This is the third utter wallbanger moment for me. This is where I didn’t just lose respect for Rothfuss as a writer, but as a person living life.

      Bar fights? Totally my scene, and let me assure you, people get fucked up in those things.

      Reply
      1. braak

        Yeah, it feels like he’s talking about that kind of fictional barfight — one of those “tropes” that he’s always trying to “deconstruct” — that’s just a sort of jolly scuffle, a couple tables get smashed, everyone man-hugs at the end and suddenly we’re all friends.

        Maybe the barfights in Wisconsin are different, but everywhere I’ve been, there’s tremendous pressure NOT to start shit in a bar — since no one wants to get thrown out; when that breaks down, it’s because people have got a very serious desire to hurt each other.

        Reply
      2. Austin H. Williams

        “… but everywhere I’ve been, there’s tremendous pressure NOT to start shit in a bar — since no one wants to get thrown out; when that breaks down, it’s because people have got a very serious desire to hurt each other.”

        Rightly observed.

        Also: The kinds of places that have a tolerance for fights inside the bar, club, etc., tend to be places where a very rough crowd hangs out. And even there, the bouncers, usually the baddest of of the bunch, are itching for an excuse to get involved, and severe unpleasantries still ensue..

        Reply
      3. katz

        If he were just wrong, it would be tolerable. But smugly telling you that, no, you’re totally wrong about the thing you actually know about and his bullshit made up version is how it really is? Gaaah! (The icing on the cake: All he had to do was say “In fictional country X, barfights are like this” and he’d be home free!)

        Hell, Red Dwarf deconstructed a bar fight better than this.

        Reply
      4. phylakes

        Eh,I think you guys are overstating the proportion of serious fights. Or we go to different sorts of bars. The majority of fights I’ve seen on a night out are drunk young guys who fail to do any meaningful damage to each other. To hear the bouncers themselves tell it, they get a fair few people who try to start something with them because the suckers thinks they can take them.

        Anyway, that’s all academic because a fight that starts with a whole group going after one guy is guaranteed to be serious business.

        Reply
      5. Reveen

        Depends on the crowd I guess, I mean if were talking about a range from drunk college kids who end up crying at the end of the fight to genuine rough guys who might end up killing you.

        But in the story this is a inn full of out of work mercenaries, likely to be hungry and unhappy with being stuck in a one horse town, and not likely to have many moral scruples. This kind of crowd is a fucking powder keg that can devolve into murder. What the fuck is Kvothe talking about?

        Reply
      6. braak

        I am sure that it depends on both the bar and the crowd.

        Though that does make his categorical statements about bar fights pretty silly.

        Reply
      7. welltemperedwriter

        It strikes me as a pretty weird generalization, for sure. I mean, I’ve never been in a bar fight, but I’ve happened to be around when a few broke out, and it never seemed to me like observers wanted to intervene or get involved unless they were being paid to. (And really, it’s best to let the bouncers handle it.) Since one of these fights culminated in a shooting I sort of question the idea that people in a barfight are reluctant to do one another damage as a matter of course.

        Reply
  7. katz

    Jax also conducts science experiments for kids.

    Based on his blog, Rothfuss seems like a standard dudebro liberal. You know the type: Vocal about marijuana legalization and net neutrality and maybe, like, the environment or something, thinks we’ve solved racism, thinks he’s being oppressed if anyone doesn’t value his white-guy opinion.

    I think the reason he mentions taxes is much simpler: He’s copying Robin Hood.

    Reply
    1. Andrea Harris

      Americans are obsessed with taxes. We hates the taxes, yesss Precious. Even IRS (Internal Revenue Service) employees complain about taxes. America was (in popular imagination) built on hating taxes. The one SFF story you will never see published in the USA is a story about a heroic taxman who everyone loves because the revenue he collects helps the poor and destitute and keeps our infrastructure from completely crumbling. That’s the one plot that’s too fantastic for us.

      Reply

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