Sumptuous Surfeit of Surquedry

Spoiler Check: I am up to the Thomas Covenant series, Book 9 – “Against All Things Ending”, Chapter 1 – “The Burden of Too Much Time”

Bit of a contrast between Robert Jordan and Stephen Donaldson in terms of style. Neither are partial to simple, everyday language. But Jordan just limits himself to a slightly “oldy worldy” feel, entirely in keeping with the loosely medieval setting of his stories. Otherwise the prose is entirely accessible, often straying onto the trivial or even gossipy.

Against that, returning to Donaldson is total culture shock. I had forgotten just how opaque his use of language can be. His Thomas Covenant books are all about painting a picture of deep and momentous forces that manipulate destinies in ethereal, timeless and unfathomable ways. So he peppers his writing with pearls of abstruse vocabulary.

The first example I came across was orogeny. I wondered fleetingly if this was a typo, but “progeny” did not fit. Then I thought it must be to do with mountains. Oreads are mountain nymphs, in the same way as Naiads live in or around water and Dryads live in woods.

My wife had been mocking me for reading a book on my phone (I am using the Android Kindle app) while imperiously waving her thick-as-a-brick paper copy of Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” to remind me what a “real” book looked like. I demonstrated that the text on my phone was at least as large and easy to read as her book’s and that I was holding it the same distance away. No eye strain. Just more frequent page turns. And then something her book couldn’t do. I showed her how I could highlight words such as orogeny and have the Kindle app look them up on Dictionary.com for me.

Having said that, even Dictionary.com struggled with another peach from Donaldson: surquedry.  It means overweening pride, apparently. Or arrogance, presumption.  One might be tempted to think his very use of the term was somewhat ironic.

There has always been some sense in reading Donaldson with a dictionary at one’s side. Now, using the Kindle app, you can dispense with having to manhandle not one but two heavy paper tomes.

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This entry was posted in Against All Things Ending, Android, Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Fantasy, Kindle, Robert Jordan, Stephen R Donaldson. Bookmark the permalink.

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