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Thank you, Sir Terry. Once more, you amaze and inspire me.

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Reframing the Gothic

Ok, I have just sent off my paper proposal for the Hamburg conference in September. Hope they’ll like it!

My proposed topic is called “Reframing the Gothic: Narration and Reflexivity in House of Leaves and The Southern Reach Trilogy”. In one sentence, I claim that both of these works use fantasy techniques to confuse readers. Let me elaborate that a bit:

Nearly all fantasy literature features a secondary world – a complete world which is not crucial for the story per se, but which gives us nice and interesting background information about flora, fauna and all those bits of history in between. In fantasy, this technique is used to make the world appear real.

Now Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves and Jeff VanderMeer’s The Southern Reach Trilogy both also feature extensive background information that lurks around the corners of the main story. Yet instead of making the worlds of the House or Area X appear to be real, they add to their irreality. Why do we have all those footnotes and excerpts from diaries in House of Leaves? Why do we learn of the true implications of the twelfth expedition into Area X (and what really happened to the eleventh) only when it is already too late?

In both of these texts, the world continues off-page, but you don’t want to leave the marked paths…

Interlude

I have just read Pratchett’s short story Dragons at Crumbling Castle and am so happy and feel so privileged to write a doctoral thesis about such a talented, warm and funny man.

I normally try to avoid fanboying for fear of losing objectivity, but right now I can do nothing but sit here and marvel at the simple yet wise message of this story.

Starting tomorrow, I will put this feeling into more elaborate words and hope to express it with the same vigour.

Going gothic

William Beckford’s Vathek is a very strange book and thus a perfect addition to my ideas concerning my next article…

To give you a little insight if you haven’t read the book, here are a few scenes from the novel:

– The main character Vathek builds a tower of ginormous height to study the stars at night. Besides being an observatory, it is a vertical labyrinth filled with mummies, rhinoceroses’ horns, snake oils, trap doors, dead ends and numerous other dangers and findings.

– Later, he kicks a merchant in anger who turns into a ball tumbling through the palace. Vathek advises everyone to join in, so a kick-the-merchant-turned-ball game ensues throughout the city until said ball-merchant drops into a valley. To appease the merchant, fifty children must be sacrificed by throwing them into the valley as well, so Vathek enacts a contest pretending to find the most beautiful boy.

– Vathek falls in love with a girl who fakes her own death to escape only to re-encounter him immediately thereafter and falling in love with him after all

– Blue fishes are coerced to talk and act as oracles, but after one question answered they do not feel like answering any more so they are released again

Perhaps more than anything else, Vathek is an excellent example of how good pacing works. The book is less than a hundred pages long, but it feels like an awful lot is going on all the time. I haven’t found any boring passages – some are laughable, others wildly colourful or dreamlike.

And now I just have to find all of its architectural notions that I have read about in secondary literature…

Night Train To Nebelsbad

I have just finished editing my presentation for tomorrow whilst listening to The Grand Budapest Hotel soundtrack. I feel like I should dance on something or go sledding, but there is too much stuff on my table and it isn’t winter yet. Yet.

By the way, if you want to read a really good although mildly confusing book, give John Morreall’s Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor a try. It’s an excellent attempt at trying to find out why we laugh and philosophers oftentimes didn’t.

Mirror of worlds

“Like the best works of fantasy, a journey with [Terry Pratchett’s] trolls, witches, and crusty night watchmen provokes inspection of our own world. But what other authors do with light allusions, Discworld does with a sledgehammer. And with light allusion too. Then it steals your wallet.”

“Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Might Be The Highest Form of Literature on the Planet” by Brandon Sanderson. (via the-library-and-step-on-it)