A Reader's Diary

Saturday, January 28, 2006

James Frey Controversy; Review of Tough Guide to Fantasy Land

Everyone seems to be talking about the James Frey controversy. I was not planning on reading the book so I hadn't paid much attention to it, but the question of defining non-fiction vs. fiction, and where a memoir falls in, caught my interest. Someone made the point that memoir cannot be guaranteed as absolute fact, because memory is faulty. I've seen that in the psych courses I've taken. So maybe there should be some sort of disclaimer on memoirs, that events may not have occured exactly as depicted in the book? Yet there is a difference between remembering differently and purposefully altering details in order to produce a "better" book. At what point does the book cross into the territory of a novel "based on a true story"? These are questions which I think will require a lot of discussion and debate, and I will be interested to see how the publishing industry reacts to these issues of authenticity, accuracy, and sincerity.

Today's review:

The Tough Guide to Fantasy Land by Diana Wynne Jones (nonfiction; fantasy)

A guidebook to the world of fantasy fiction, from "Adept" (someone with a masters of magic) to "Zombie" (the smelly, sad, and easy-to-kill undead). The author reveals the common template under which fantasy novels in the Tolkien tradition operate. The book contains interesting observations such as no one in fantasyland seems to ever suffer from scurvy and forks are non-existant. I found the Guide very funny, as I think other fantasy readers would also. "Official Management Terms" such as a "reek of wrongness" that distinguishes bad characters and locations are familiar, although I never thought of it in quite that way before. From this book it is clear just how influential Tolkien has been in shaping the fantasy genre. Definately a must read for the true and dedicated fantasy fan.

Next I plan to read "His Dark Materials Illuminated: Critical Essays on Philip Pullman's Trilogy". I'm also reading "Destiny's Daughter" by Rebecca Brandewyne. So far it is quite good; I wasn't expecting it to be (was expecting more romance, and I'm a few chapters in and there is none so far. Not that romance is bad, it can just be a bit much). The archaeology angle caught my interest right away, as well as the mythological and historical content (especially after recently reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman). I'll post a review when I'm done; for now here is a link to the author's website: http://www.brandewyne.com/titles/titles_abcd.html#destinysdaughter

Happy reading!


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