His words. Not mine. Obviously.
Because I obviously did read the book, and I haven’t regretted it.
That having been said – yes, it is an odd story indeed. But that was not surprising, after Patrick Rothfuss’ preamble of discouraging to buy this book… (of course, he may have been coy in some aspects or other… just for the record.)
As much as one, in his words, probably shouldn’t write a book like this, one also shouldn’t make this the first book one reviews in a blog, but well, it was the first one I finished when I started this, so bear with me.
I had the vague idea of cooking up a number of categories to evaluate books (and will probably do so in the future), but since this is such a strange story, this will also be an odd review, probably in bits and pieces such as Auri is.
First things first, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a in-between-the-lines-story to Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller chronicles, a vignette on the character of Auri, who, indeed, isn’t quite the least interesting character in the story.
It also barely touches the main plot and probably will be completely insignificant to the understanding of the series as a whole. Which is all the better, because my last read of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear was quite a while ago…
So, without good knowledge of Rothfuss’ other books, reading this book is probably wasted time.
But if you have read and liked the kingkiller chronicles… well.. it’s still an open game.
When I first started out the book, after reading Rothfuss’ intro, I was intrigued. If anything, it accounted for unusual reading and curiosity is something I can always be baited with.
A few pages in, I marveled. The language used throughout the book is beautifully poetic and descriptive, a painting with words, and that is something I always love, regardless of the story told. The perspective is solely and undoubtedly Auri’s. You get a glimpse into her thoughts, into her world, the way she sees it (and yes, it’s totally odd), and that’s what makes it extra interesting. Obviously, she doesn’t really explain herself, only by following her, you will find what odd place her mind is. She walks through what she calls the “underthing”, the forgotten cellars of the university, and tends to it like a gardener, following a logic that is obvious to her and barely understandable for anyone; including the reader. It is fairly clear that there is a logic though (and I will get back to that a little later, probably…)
Auri’s story and her days in the cellars went on, and then I became bored. I hate to say it, but I was almost at the point of putting the story aside, and only the fact that I knew that it is a very short story kept me going. Just about when Auri leaves the underthing for a moment and walks the earth on a quest of her own, I felt that Rothfuss was now really beginning to overdo. A vignette is a vignette, and the –ette is in the word for its shortness, and I felt that I was learning nothing new any more. I kind of had understood the point about Auri, and still it went on and on. Well. Every story has its drags. This story being a short one, I gave myself a kicking in the rear and soldiered on.
When Auri started making soap, I got into the flow again. I don’t know why… maybe because I was getting a glimpse of where this was going, and maybe it was me, but I recognized the story underlying the simple actions a little more clearly.
Or at least what I think of it.
And in the end, I was… well. What was I? I am thinking of a word and the best one that comes to mind is “satisfied”. To me the story has come full circle, the ends tied up, the questions brought to purpose, and that is fine with me. It’s less of a conscious decision but rather something depending on gut and intuition, but to me, the is were dotted, the ts crossed and the story told. That’s what counts in the end.
And because there were pages left, I read the story behind the story, on Rothfuss’s thoughts on how the story had formed and developed, and maybe something did click home there.
It is, in his words, not a story for everyone and to that I heartily agree. But maybe it is a story for someone who tends to see life in things as well. Maybe it is a story for someone who gives names to just about every elephant staturine she can find (including a personality; and yes, my children’s days are a long way past). It is probably a story for someone who had an incredibly hard time selling her old car because this, no matter how much she told herself that this was the most stupid thing on earth, felt like some kind of abandonment. Instinctual reaction, and yes, totally idiotic, but there you go.
So maybe it is kind of a story for me. Something within it struck home, and that’s, in the end, what I guess a vignette is about.
And of course, riddles being riddles and stories being stories, I try to fix Auri into the larger context. Those of you who want to avoid spoilers or hypotheses might want to stop reading here.
So, Auri was a student at the university. Nothing surprising there, and even though I hadn’t figured it out before, the fact that she knows the names of things doesn’t really come as a surprise. She seems to be skilled beyond what most other students of the university managed to accomplish, and the book has left me with quite a number of questions.
Auri is depicted to have some kind of neurosis, a notion of having to “set things to right”, a task which occupies a lot of her time. I wonder if she always had this notion; even as a university student, even as a child; or if something has called it forth.
Auri names things and has her unique view on things and the world, and it is easy to dismiss this as some fashion of madness, but one cannot help but wonder if there is something underneath. Looking at how she crafts the candle, the distance between what is higher alchemy and what she does doesn’t seem all too great… to look into the nature of materials. Auri seems mad and living in her own world but is she?
For those who want to believe in magic and weird connections, I take the theory to the extreme…
I would like to believe that Auri is indeed a very skilled namer, probably by gift, practice and maybe sheer luck opening a number of doors she should have left closed. Maybe her skill with naming goes so far that she is now unable to perceive the world as it really is. She has looked so deeply into the nature of things, the nature of seemingly soulless beings, that they have got a life of their own. A property is connected to a name and a character, and she is no longer able to distinguish between them. Maybe this allows her to see and shape the world uniquely, but gaining that sight she has lost quite a number of characteristics; sanity and understanding of the rest of the world in particular.
It will be interesting to see how her skill of naming (beyond practically all namers mentioned in the book…), and especially that new name of Kvothe’s that she is working on, will further tie in, but very likely, in Auri’s eyes we are looking at the dark side of this kind of magic.
I wonder what made her what she is now.
I hope, though, we will find out in time.