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What a Book is Supposed to Do [The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

June 12, 2016

The short version is this: “It’s so goooood!” followed by incoherent screaming.

DSC00107The long version is this:

This was my third time reading this book, and every time I wrote this review in my head a hundred times. And in the months in between, I had to remind myself a hundred times that, no, I could not just read this book over and over for the rest of my life, I should actually read other books too.

There are a lot of unusual things about this book. One of them is how much I think not just about the story, but also about the Author’s Foreword and especially about the Author’s Endnote. About the way Patrick Rothfuss starts with, “You might not want to buy this book.” About how he says people might not like it. How it’s not for everyone. How it doesn’t do what a story is supposed to do.

And yes, maybe in terms of structure, it doesn’t.

But in other ways, it does exactly what a book is supposed to do.

It makes you forget that the people and places and things you’re reading about aren’t real.

It makes you understand a completely different way of thinking.

It makes you feel, it makes you believe, and that is what a book is supposed to do.

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Each of the three times I’ve read The Slow Regard of Silent Things, it’s made me so afraid it was hard to breathe, about a thing that – if you take a step back and look at the situation calmly and objectively – is no reason to be afraid at all.

But I know that feeling so well, of worries and fears piling up and making me feel sick and shaky, my throat tight and my heart racing.

This story is for all the slightly broken people out there.

I am one of you. You are not alone. You are all beautiful to me.

-from the Author’s Endnote

Thank you, Pat. Thank you.

The first time I read The Slow Regard, when it came out in 2014, I was beginning to notice I didn’t feel quite right, that I wasn’t doing as many things as I used to do, that I didn’t want to do them, and that thinking of the things I had to do made me feel overwhelmed and choked with fear because I couldn’t keep up with how many of of them were piling up.

And I know, now, that I’m not alone. That there are so many other people out there whose brains do stupid things.

But often it doesn’t feel like it. Even knowing about so many people who have mental health issues, I still feel alone, never seeing anyone in the books I read feeling this way.

This is what a book is supposed to do. To make you feel. To make you believe. Auri makes me believe I’m not alone.

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In The Name of the Wind (which, admittedly, I haven’t reread in far too long), Auri is an enigma. In The Slow Regard of Silent Things, you get deeply into her head, and the things she does and says make perfect sense, and yet, she still remains mysterious, her past just hinted at.

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It’s such a beautiful book. Beautifully made, beautifully illustrated, and oh so beautifully written. One of the very few books I can’t even compare to food, because the language is too beautiful for such a clumsy metaphor.

It’s a language that dances and sings.

It’s a language that doesn’t stay on the beaten path, that goes off leaping through the woods among dew-sparkling leaves and spider’s webs and delicate flowers.

Or maybe, to stay closer to Auri’s life in the Underthing, it’s the strange beauty of a cave, filled with the pale shapes of stalagmites and the glitter of crystals and the flash of white fish in dark water.

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Every time I read The Slow Regard, there are so many things I want to say to Patrick Rothfuss. Mostly, I want to reach through the page every time he writes, “people probably won’t like this book” and grab him by the collar and shake him and scream, “Nooooo!”

Another part of me just wants to flap my hands and squeal, “It’s so gooooood!”

And another part of me wants to start crying and thank him for how much it means to me.

But when I had the chance to speak to him, in the few moments I had, I didn’t end up saying any of these things. (I said something else I wanted to say just as much. I wasn’t struck dumb by nervousness like the first time I met him. When I would have had so much more time to talk. But I didn’t have anything to say then.)

But I think I’ll save that story for another post. I’m pretty confident now I’ll get there eventually.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Alice deGrey permalink
    June 12, 2016 22:47

    Aw, now I want to reread it too! You’re right, Auri is fascinating and wonderful. What has defined this book for me is that Pat said (at the reading) with the German translation, they hired a poetry translator for all the names and little hints. They wanted to get that part right. And now I want to find all the hints and puns and word plays, although it might be impossible (and I’m not very good at it).

    Also, it’s admirable that you had the guts to actually talk to him at the reading. I didn’t… maybe next time though! 😀

    • June 13, 2016 05:50

      I was wondering how they managed to do it justice in translation, but that makes sense. It is a very poetic book.

      I’ve gotten quite a bit of practise at meeting writers by now, and I had prepared the thing I was going to say for weeks before the reading!
      (Writers, and other people – in the Endnote, he mentions his agent, Matt, and his editor, Betsy, and every time I read that, I go, “I’ve met both of them!” Meeting Betsy involved a lot of “It’s so gooooood!”)

  2. June 12, 2016 23:26

    Now I think I must definitely get this book! I wasn’t sure about it since some people didn’t seem to like it so much, but Auri is one of my favorite characters. As someone who’s brain also does stupid things, this might be the perfect book for me.

  3. lvdpal permalink
    June 14, 2016 12:45

    What a great review!

  4. August 14, 2016 06:18

    If it were music it would be by Anton Webern.

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