Literary Fiction + Literary Fantasy

Literary Fiction + Literary Fantasy

hey guys Rick here and today I'm gonna talk to you about two books the first of which Eleanor Rigby I'm gonna talk to you in a little more depth and the second of which assassin's apprentice I'm gonna talk to you with a little less depth and that's because assassin's apprentice is the first book in a trilogy which I do plan to finish what rather kind of make a longer better video talking about the whole trilogy rather than just the first book which I don't think is really meant to stand on its own so talking about it feels a little incomplete so I'll talk a little bit about it because it is part of my 20 books of summer series so I'm kind of contractually obligated to speak about it a little bit so I will at the end of the video but most of this video will be about Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland so Eleanor Rigby this was a bit of an interesting journey I went on with with Douglas Coupland in this one because for the first half of it I was getting that very similar feeling I get with pretty much every Douglas Coupland novel now and it's that I I just wish he took it a little more seriously like it just seems like every book that Copelan is writing he's aware that he has like 15 more books in him it's like he's aware that he doesn't have to get everything in his head out at one time and then he doesn't feel obligated to kind of write his magnum opus every single time he writes a book Koplin just feels like a guy who was so talented he can sit down and write a book in a month and it'll be better than 90% of the books that'll ever be written and I just get this feeling like if he sat with it a little more he would have been able to put something out that is just like mind-blowing ly good but he's satisfied with it being good and not great he does it was just such an ease it just feels casual I just want him to make me feel something really deeply which he has done his book hey Nostradamus is one of my favorite books of all time because that was the one book of his that I read that I feel like he was really trying to say something and I've been looking for that experience within every Copland book since fairly or unfairly and I just haven't found it and Eleanor Rigby just has that same feel as every other Copelan novel that just like gently banal Coplin as' that makes his books such a breeze but also make them feel like they're missing something the book is about a early forties woman named Liz Dunn who describes herself as fat and plain and lonely she lives by herself she's never really had a long-term relationship of any kind and she has settled into a life of spin sternness in a way that she's comfortable with or at least she thinks she's comfortable with but then all of a sudden she gets a phone call from the hospital and this 20 year old kid who's been admitted has a medical alert bracelet and her number is on it so they call her and then you find out that this kid is her son she had him when she was very young and had to give him up and she hasn't seen him since but he is now all of a sudden back in her life and doesn't seem to want to let her go so then liz has to kind of re-evaluate where she is who she is what she wants what she can be to her son what he can be towards her and that all happens in about 250 pages and for the first half of the book maybe even three quarters of the book it did feel like another just whimsical slender Copeland's story about a middle-aged woman finding herself through her long-lost son and then something happened and it just clicked in with me what Koplin was doing and I started to see this story as something the matically larger than that and I started to see all the ways that Copeland is talking about blindness and vision so the novel opens like this I'd always thought that a person born blind and given sight later on in life through the miracles of modern medicine would feel reborn yet I've read books that tell me that this isn't the way newly-created vision plays out in real life gifted with site previously blind people become frightened and confused everything shocks and nothing brings solace right away it's telling you that Liz has been blind to something her whole life and something is about to have and that is about two regifter with sight and that it's not gonna be easy and she might hate it at first but she's got a whether that storm but then if she can get through it she will have something more valuable and be able to see the world in a different way Copeland then takes this idea of blindness and vision and then kind of pivots it to absence and presence at the start of the story liz is more known for the things that she doesn't have she doesn't have a husband she doesn't have a boyfriend she does another child she doesn't really even have friends she barely has food in her apartment she refuses to keep booze in her house because she doesn't want to be seen or doesn't want to think of herself as this like spinster lush who like drinks booze all day and pets her cats and I think a huge arc of the story is Copeland kind of D romanticizing that kind of loneliness I think which sounds weird to say but it works because Liz herself is so comfortable in her solo lifestyle and I think a lot of people reading the book will also know how that feels I think most readers are pretty fine on their own but a big part of the narrative I think is pulling the veil out from the idea of kind of noble loneliness to one of presence to being a person in the world who goes out and searches for things and feels things and doesn't push things away I think he confronts loneliness as something that can be a bit of a wasted self-indulgence which hit me really hard because I'm a person who is very okay being alone and I really really need my alone time as my wife will attest but a lot of that time I think is probably just wasted a lot of it is self-indulgent a lot of it is me saying no to the world and saying yes to myself while the book lacks any really beautiful prose or moments of real like real emotional resonance the book also never gets boring I can't really say that there's a point where I feel like he made a mistake you know which I think there's a lot to be said for that a lot of books that have really high points also have really low points the only thing that really comes close to a misstep I think is Liz's son Jeremy is kind of this wish-fulfillment son that comes back into your life he's this kind of waifish kid who has gone through the system and he's had abuse and what that equals is is like a font of wisdom but he's not really this fully realized character he's just this source of compassion for Liz and he doesn't really have a lot of human emotion I don't think he's a really he's I don't know he's a really strange character he's I think it was completely on purpose the way he ended up I think he's the kind of character that Copeland wanted and to be but it just felt a little empty especially the way he comes into Liz's life it's a very auspicious debut and it just yeah I never really clicked for me so this book ended up being more or less what I expected out of a Copeland book it was funny it was a little poignant but just kind of a nice breezy read it wasn't great but it also wasn't a waste of time I really enjoyed it okay moving on to assassin's apprentice by Robin hobb I don't want to say too much about this book because like I said this is the first book in a trilogy and I'd rather review the trilogy as a whole when I'm done but for now I just have kind of five thoughts that I'm gonna outline on the book what I thought about it and why I'm excited to read the next two in the series the first thing that I loved about the book is that this story is told by Fitz the main character as he's an old man he's looking back at this story from the future and typically I don't love stories like that especially in fantasy because I think it removes one of the main dramatic tensions of an adventure story and that is whether the character will die or survive so we know from the start that Fitz lives he's telling this story as an older man so that happen so Fitz is telling the story as an older man so he clearly lives through this story that being said I love what hob did with this device she didn't do this arbitrarily she did this on purpose and that's to give context to everything that's happening to Fitz all throughout his journey she hints at things and she can kind of let you know whether this is something that really meant something to Fitz later so you should pay attention to it or I shall point out that like you know what Fitz never figured this part out this thing that happened right now was gonna bother him for the rest of his life and he's never gonna figure it out which I thought was really interesting like it sounds frustrating I think to hear but I don't know it added this level of intrigue or mystery to the story that that wouldn't have been there otherwise also Fitz ends up being this kind of chronicler of history and at the start of every chapter is a little section before the narrative begins to give you a little bit of a history of the world which was such an elegant way of world-building without kind of shoehorning it into the narrative because sometimes in fantasy you can tell that a character is like now it's time for the exposition like you don't ever get that because there's a very strict format to the way the book is and you get the exposition in planned out sections and this is done really timely and Fitz is able to give you hints at the larger world that will inform the scene you're about to see it was just really really cleverly done I just love that second point I think that people should know before going into it that this is a fantasy book where like not a lot happens at least in the context of other larger broader fantasy stories like this is more of a low-level adventure we'll say there's a lot of learning there's a lot of trial and error and who Fitz is at the start of the book and who Fitz is at the end of the book are not drastically different it's really about Fitz learning about himself about other people how other people behave how he fits into this community how he fits into the royal family how he fits in with regular people I just love the pace I just loved how kind of slowly and methodically hob moves through this entire book the third point I just loved the relationship between Fitz and his dog nosey Oh like for someone who just had to give up his dog side story my dog developed extreme allergies and she couldn't stay in my house anymore so we had to rehome her it's very sad but I don't really want to talk about it right now so obviously this story affected me in a pretty heartbreaking way and without saying too too much about what happens I just want to point out one of the most beautiful lines in a book I've ever ever read and that is near the end of the story when Fitz says that he and nosey remember that they were good to each other when they were puppies and you're not gonna really understand that line unless you read the book but if you have read the book oh my god it just did that killed me I was like oh that's the sweetest thing I've ever heard in my entire life it was so beautiful point number four is that I really fell in love with Robyn Hobbs writing throughout this story it has so much substance and sophistication to it that I think a lot of high fantasies can actually miss and at the same time she doesn't really over complicate her writing she just kind of leaves a lot of room for the story to mature on its own it's just brilliant and point number five I said in an earlier video six months ago or something like that that I considered the Mount Rushmore of fantasy writers to be Tolkien Martin Todd Williams and Robert Jordan and as soon as I finished reading this book I was like oh man I think I might have to reevaluate that group of people from what I've heard these books only get better and if that is true then Robert Jordans got some serious competition for me so Tolkien martinwilliams they're never gonna get knocked off that that that cliff face for me for sure they're cementing forever but yeah that fourth one is definitely open and Robin hobb is is coming up on Robert Jordan pretty hard right now hope you guys are having a great Reading Week I will talk to you in a couple days bye

15 thoughts on “Literary Fiction + Literary Fantasy

  1. Hi from your 1,000th subscriber! I used to want to read Coupland 19 years ago when I first went to college. I never did, because what I started with seemed a bit banal. I might try him again though.

  2. Okay, I need to read some Robin Hobb. It's just that Cam didn't find her so amazing?? So I've always been put off. But everyone else seems to think she's great. Cam is probably wrong😂😂

  3. I just finished rereading the farseer trilogy and it’s just honestly the best coming of age fantasy trilogy ever. Like, it’s witty and emotional and perfectly plotted. I think a lot of people get frustrated by how slow the book is, but I love it. Like, there’s so much room for characterization with the way Hobb structures the story. And Robin Hobb’s writing is my favorite in fantasy. Reading Robin Hobb feels like coming home. Her writing is so assured and confident without being showy. She’s bae. And oh yeah Hobb >>>>>>>> Jordan any day of the week. I hope you like the rest of the series! If you’re planning on reading all of the RoTE books, strap in, cuz each book gets better and better. 😊😊😊

  4. I also have a deep need to be alone and to have time to myself. Whether I am productive or waste the time, it is rejuvenating. My son is the same way. I don't consider it depressing, but I do think there is some danger in how comfortable I and my son are being alone. My wife fortunately is a very understanding and social human being who knows when to let us be and when to get us out and among people.

  5. I would say that although Janny Wurts sadly and undeservedly lacks the big-name recognition to be on the Mt Rushmore of fantasy, I prefer her work to those of George RR Martin and Robert Jordan.

  6. I remember struggling a little bit to find my footing with Assassin's Apprentice because of the "not a lot happens" thing, but that was because I don't think my brain was ready for a fantasy story that was slower paced. Once I wrapped my head around what was happening and what kind of story Hobb was trying to tell, I was ALL IN. I'm working on Liveships. Hopefully. This summer.

  7. From my goodreads reviews of Eleanor Rigby, I think I had a similar reaction:

    "Total comfort read. If you like Douglas Coupland, you will like this."

    It must be so wild to write your first book and have it be this phenomenon. Like I forgot that he also coined "McJob" in this book which I realized no one says anymore, but they used to… I wonder if that's why he can't get the magic back. Also I think he's more into his visual art lately.

  8. "Many who have spent a lifetime in it can tell us less of love than the child who lost a dog yesterday." – Thornton WIlder

  9. Glad you enjoyed Assassin's Apprentice. I finished that particular trilogy a couple of months ago and Hobb definitely made her way into my top fantasy authors list (I'm sure she's very happy about that). Totally agree that on the surface there's not a lot of action, but the depth of her characters and their growth throughout the trilogy kept me hooked. And if you liked Nosey you've got some great stuff coming up! I'm working through the Liveship Traders trilogy now – also brilliant so far.

  10. Being a Gen Xer myself I totally connected with Coupland when I was in my 20's but after trying to read Girlfriend in a Coma two or three years ago I'm afraid I've outgrown him. I remember enjoying Eleanor Rigby but now I can only recall the thing that happened to her as a teenager. I agree with everything you say about Coupland's writing. He doesn't take his books too seriously and I don't think he has evolved as much as he should/could.

  11. Eleanor Rigby sounds really good and I officially think you are going to complicate my all my future TBRs.

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