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Thread: E.R. Eddison

  1. #16
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    Don't worry, Julian.

    Though I didn't say I was joining in, I intended to read it, too.....somehow, though, June snuck up on me. I was totally shocked to see the BotM discussions open for June. I'm still back in early to mid-may somehow.

  2. #17
    unconditional roach love
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    I have been remiss too. To my credit however, the reason is that I lent my copy to a friend.

  3. #18
    I read all of his novels, but that was many years ago. I have since rediscovered The Worm Ouroboros and have reread it 3 or 4 times in the last 5 years or so. I don't remember much about the other books but I'm sure they are worth reading. You can download a copy of The Worm Ouroboros here: http://www.lulu.com/content/162834 It passed into the public domain 3 years ago.

  4. #19
    Hyperpower! Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by californiasteve
    I read all of his novels, but that was many years ago. I have since rediscovered The Worm Ouroboros and have reread it 3 or 4 times in the last 5 years or so. I don't remember much about the other books but I'm sure they are worth reading. You can download a copy of The Worm Ouroboros here: http://www.lulu.com/content/162834 It passed into the public domain 3 years ago.
    Hey, that's pretty cool. I wonder what other classics of our genre have slipped into the public domain? As for myself, I've already bought a copy of Worm Ouroboros. Cost me a dolla'! Looking forward to seeing what all the fuss is about.

  5. #20
    Resurrecting this thread because I just bought Mistress of Mistresses under the impression that it was the first book of the Zimiamvian Trilogy. I'm confused now after hearing about people reading the books in reverse order due to the publishing order not being the chronological order? I don't want to spoil the books by accidently reading the last one first. Can anyone who read them tell me if I've understood correctly that the chronological order and proper reading order is:
    1. The Mezentian Gate
    2. A Fish Dinner in Memison
    3. Mistress of Mistresses

    Also, how does The Worm Ouroboros relate to the trilogy? Does it matter if I read it before or after? I thought it was a stand alone, but after reading about it, it seems there is a connection to the trilogy.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  6. #21
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    I suggest reading the Zimiamvian trilogy in publication order, for a couple of reasons. First, The Mezentian Gate was not finished by Eddison before he died: the published book includes the text that he had written, plus a good amount of reconstruction and timeline. It's a satisfying book, but not intrinsically, only as a coda to the other two volumes. And if you don't start with The Mezentian Gate, you might as well begin with Mistress of Mistresses rather than with A Fish Dinner in Memison.

    Second, in my view, Mistress of Mistresses offers the best introduction to the style of the trilogy, Eddison's philosophy (which is absolutely central to the stories) and to the principal characters. It is true that A Fish Dinner in Memison could be read separately, or first, but in my view it's a much richer reading experience having already finished A Mistress of Mistresses--there's a great deal of overlap in the characters, and the underpinning philosophy is revealed to have even further layers and depths.

    The connections between the trilogy and The Worm Ouroboros are few, though arguably significant, and there is no reason why one should read The Worm either before or after the trilogy. The styles of the two works are greatly different and afford greatly differing reading experiences. There is no overlap in the plot and only one shared character, Lessingham, who in The Worm serves only as a weak (and silly) framing device and vanishes after the first chapter.

    Personally, I think The Worm is a masterpiece (with some flaws), and I re-read it every couple of years, so I suggest you try it first. The Zimiamvian trilogy is a powerful work and very rewarding but it's longer, more involved, and less thrilling. Have fun with both!

  7. #22
    Thanks a lot Jfclark, that answers everything perfectly!

  8. #23
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    Understanding Eddison's philosophy:

    First, though The Worm has some faint relation to the Zimiamvia trilogy, it is not a part of it, and stands as a sharply distinct work. It is a sort of essay at the things Eddison later accomplishes far better in the trilogy.

    The old Ballantine Adult Fantasy editions of Eddison are especially valuable for the front material, which includes a deeply useful essay on Eddison by the renowned literary critic Orville Prescott, and a lengthy letter by Eddison himself; together those help define Eddison's meticulously worked out personal philosophy (or, really, religion).

    Because I have had my wrist slapped by the mods for linking to my own pages, I won't link to my Eddison page, which quotes at length from those key writings and explores Eddison's thought, but I daresay the curious can locate it.

    As a sample, here is a brief passage from Eddison's letter:
    [I]t is sufficient to reflect that the main difference between earth and heaven may lie in this: that here we are slaves of Time, but there the Gods are masters.

    There are no hidden meanings: no studied symbols or allegories. It is the general defect of allegory and symbolism to set up the general above the individual, the abstract above the concrete, the idea above the person. I hold the contrary: to me the value of the sunset is not that it suggests to me ideas of eternity; rather, eternity itself acquires value to me only because I have seen it (and other matters besides) in the sunset and (shall we say) in the proud pallour of Fiorinda's brow and cheeks,--even in your friend, that brutal ferocious and lionlike fox, the Vicar of Rerek [characters in the tales],--and so have foretasted its perfections.

    Personality is a mystery: a mystery that darkens as we suffer our imagination to speculate upon the penetration of human personality by Divine, and vice versa. Perhaps my three pairs of lovers are, ultimately, but one pair. Perhaps you could as truly say that [they] . . . are but two persons, each at three several stages of "awakeness," as call them six separate persons.
    Eddison is assuredly one of the all-time greats of fantastic fiction, perhaps the intellectually deepest of all of them (though Borges competes).

  9. #24
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    I don't see The Worm as an inferior "essay" by Eddison. For that matter, I also think The Worm is artistically superior to Zimiamvia, successful and sui generis as the latter work is. To the extent that The Worm and Zimiamvia share some stylistic similarities and values (e.g., devil-may-care masculinity), they're clearly the works of the same author (Lessingham is Eddison, of course). But since they were such different projects, I don't see Zimiamvia as a sort of second attempt to do what Eddison didn't (or couldn't) do in The Worm. I think Eddison realized that heroic fantasy could serve not only as a platform for his personal exultation in language and personal aesthetic, but also as an exponent for a "somewhat abstruse philosophy" (to quote Prescott, I think). Hence Zimiamvia. But The Worm has no room for philosophy; the Lord Brandoch Daha would have had no patience for it, nor the Lord Spitfire the requisite brains.

  10. #25
    Webmaster, Great SF&F owlcroft's Avatar
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    The Worm vs Zimiamvia

    I call The Worm an "essay" (trial or attempt) because, as you say, there is little of philosophy in it, save in the overall sense of a glorification of boldness and living large, whereas I believe Eddison wrote all those works as vehicles to express his beliefs. If that be so, then he achieved much more fully in the trilogy. I also think you will find that it is not exactly or just "devil-may-care masculinity" that appears: Eddison's beliefs emphasized full-scale femininity fully as much as full-scale masculinity. His characters are literally avatars of the two great forces (loosely, "deities") of the universe.

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