Monday, June 8, 2015

Chivalry is dead. G.O.T. ya.

Minor spoilers.

Somewhere around the second book of The Song of Ice and Fire, when the Lannister's 'pragmatism' started looking good (especially Tyrion, but Jaime too, to some extent) and the Stark's 'nobility' started looking idiotic, it occurred to me that Martin was subverting the fantasy order.

Much has happened since, and no one is looking good anymore.

If you read some of the early short stories, about Dunc and Egg, it's almost like the Hobbit version compared to LOTR's.  It has a kind of nostalgic glow for better times.

Times which never existed.  Which existed only in the stories.

Any time a character evinces one of those chivalric notions, they are cut down and humiliated.

By the way, the whole way that Martin treats women is going to be open for criticism -- I just last night read the Cersie humilation scene in the book.  To say the least.  But as a writer, it all makes story sense.

Story above all.  Martin built this world, and he must be one sick and twisted guy.  But totally fascinating.


Anonymous said...

One of the reasons I got off the Martin/GoT bus is that I got tired of the notion that he is writing "realistic" fantasy. Beyond some clunkers like the army of fierce eunuchs and the whole decades-long-winter thing, which doesn't work, his notion of politics is fucked up. It's the construct of a writer who doesn't get out much and doesn't engage in the hurly-burly of actual political dynamics. It seems real, looks real, but isn't. The Machiavellianism turned up to 11 just doesn't work; can't work. It's not even true to Machiavelli.

And I have long suspected that Martin's treatment of women goes beyond the notion that women have had it tough throughout history and slides over into a squirmy suspicion that Martin's just a sick pup. Sure, you can point to historical examples similar to Cersei's humiliation — the treatment of women who collaborated between the sheets with German occupiers post liberation in France and the Low Countries comes to mind — but Martin just seems to relish it all too much, sets up for it.

At a pretty early point, I stopped buying it and stopped caring. Not to mention my belief that he has no idea what he's doing with a story that got out of his control...

Jim Cornelius

Anonymous said...

I have a similar problem with Joe Abercrombie, "Lord Grimdark." I got kicked out of one of his novels when a soldier said something to the effect that soldiers don't give a shit about where their dead are buried. I thought, "Oh, man, this guy doesn't know ANY soldiers." Military men, especially combat veterans, care very much indeed about where and how their dead are buried. They can be almost mawkishly sentimental about that sort of thing.

Another case of "dark realism" that may be dark, but isn't realistic.

Writers often live in their own heads. We need to get out and engage if we actually want to "keep it real."

Jim Cornelius

Duncan McGeary said...

The first three books were so good, so well written and fast paced, that I've given him the benefit of the doubt ever since.

Books 4 & 5 are about half as good, still better than most.

Interestingly, compared to the show, he has a lot of excess material. The show actually consolidates that nicely.

Anonymous said...

I want to clean up a bit of clumsy writing. By way of amplification and clarification: All military men I know have a deep and abiding sense of "hallowed ground." It's not just the ground where their comrades are buried, it's also land where they fought and bled. That's why it's so hard for so many to see ISIS occupying Ramadi and Fallujah. I have never encountered a military man, no matter how hardened, who doesn't give a shit.

When I say "They can be almost mawkishly sentimental about that sort of thing," what I mean is that SOME can take the honoring of hallowed ground to obsessive lengths.

An author misunderstands this at their peril.

Abercrombie lost me because, in trying to be gritty, he created something that is, in my experience, not True. Fantasy, no less than any other form of fiction, must be True.


Regarding Martin: I would never gainsay the man's talent; clearly he struck a deep and resonant chord. But I do think that he overplayed his hand in subverting common constructs. It feels like trying too hard and, again, becoming less than True.

Jim Cornelius