I'm a novice, apprentice, and journeyman mix.
"You read for pleasure and only what suits your interest. "
Is there anyone out there who reads for something besides pleasure? Or who reads books that don't interest them?
Last edited by quajack; July 28th, 2010 at 07:38 PM. Reason: added quotes
Somewhere between Journeyman and Scholar.
I feel really out of touch with the past decade, though. There's so much of it, and I've only read the smallest percentage. There was a time when I had either read, or chosen not to read, every fantasy/sf novel I could get my hands on.
A Short History of Fantasy. John Clute and John Grant's Encyclopedia of Fantasy is THE classic, although it is more of a reference than a continuous narrative, plus it is about fifteen years old. The SF version is also excellent with an online version due at some point.
Wikipedia is also your friend. Beyond the two above you start getting more arcane, but some good ones are Michael Moorcock's Wizardry and Wild Romance, Farrah Mendelsohn's Rhetorics of Fantasy, and for fun, Diana Wynn Jones' Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Unless you want to get into heavy fantasy lit theory, I'd avoid Rhetorics. There are some others, but that should get you started.
Academics keeping up with the lit in their field or starting out on a research topic. Though you do read those rather differently than normal stuff. Historians will slip over most of the events narrative on something that's very familiar to them to see what's new about this interpretation. They may well also start out by going over the footnotes, especially if it's related to their own current research topic.Is there anyone out there who reads for something besides pleasure? Or who reads books that don't interest them?
Perhaps more relevant, Clute's encyclopedia covers the root sources of most any fantasy you read. Like Vandermeer and Mieville? Well, maybe you'd find something of interest in reading about Lovecraft, C.A. Smith, C. L. Moore, Mervyn Peake, M. John Harrison, Michael Moorcock, etc. An epic fantasy fantatic? Well, maybe you'd like to know more about the sagas that inspired Tolkien, or about E. R. Eddison or William Morris. Think Catherine Valente's orphan's tales are the bee's knees and the cat's pajamas? Maybe entries on Orientalist fantasy and the influence of the 1001 Nights will further spark your interest, maybe even lead you to work by William Beckford and Lafcadio Hearn.
And so on and so on. Great book to dip into randomly and read a few entries.
Two other fine books, if you can dig up copies,
The Language of the Night by Ursula K. Le Guin (collection of essays)
Fantasists on Fantasy ed. by Kenneth Boyer and Kenneth Zahorski (anthology of essays; includes essays by C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, Moorcock and others)
Let's put it this way: I know more than you.
But knowledge does not always mean wisdom.
Master, I think. I've been reading for a long time, and I've read and written lots of stuff. Or, if not Master, then Getting There, know what I mean?
Randy, The Language of the Night is one of my all-time favorite books although it is more about writing and thinking about fantasy than a reference work. But it is a beautiful book. She also has a new collection of essays called Cheek by Jowl which focuses more on children's fantasy, although I haven't dived into it yet.
For a decent coffee table book, Pringle's Fantasy encyclopedia is ok, but it is certainly not a definitive work. You could also just scan through Amazon's Fantasy History & Criticism category, although it lists 945 books, most of which are specific to a movie or Tolkien or Rowling, etc.
It is also worth mentioning that there should be a fantasy version of the Cambridge Companion series out at some point. I read someone mention it but I haven't seen anything official and there isn't a listing on Amazon. But that should be a good one if and when it comes out.
I suppose, having actually taught upper-division level courses on the subject, having fantasy as the root of my dissertation, and having written at least one novel in the field, I must qualify as a 'Sage.' I do wonder about the criteria for the test being breadth, rather than depth of knowledge. But then again, maybe anyone willing to actually question the test itself gets bonus points for their supercilliousness.