Pretty annoyed with Patrick Rothfuss right now - Tactical Ninja
Jun. 26th, 2015
10:29 am - Pretty annoyed with Patrick Rothfuss right now
I just finished reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things. For those who aren't aware, this is a book by the author of The Kingkiller Chronicles but isn't part of the series. It's a novella that explores one of the characters from the main series, Auri, more deeply.
Auri is an enigmatic character and I was keen to find out more about her, and this book delivers.
The writing is lyrical and light, interspersed with the occasional twang as Auri struggles with her mental illness, painting a picture of her life and thoughts in words that almost dance. It's not like a normal story in that there isn't really a plot or a crisis point or an ending with closure. It's more of a stream of consciousness as Auri goes about her business in the Underthing over the course of a week.
During that time you learn quite a lot about how her mind works, and that's what makes it interesting to me. Rothfuss has done a fantastic job of finding Auri's voice and using it for exposition without actually specifically telling you anything.
Auri is not quite right in the head, but it's implied that she once was.
I've gleaned (and there are other theories, but this one is mine) that Auri was a talented alchemist Before, and possibly also a namer or shaper. She also has a pretty serious case of OCD. It seems to me that she cracked, in a similar way to the way Elodin cracked, and now she spends her time making sure the world is 'right'. She has a very strong aversion to doing anything that will sacrifice the 'rightness' of the world for her own gain, and I suspect that there was an incident in which she exercised her power and the consequences of that were that she's now able (or believes she's able) to feel the emotions of inanimate objects. [My pet theory](I wonder if she became able to name all things, and in the process lost her own name and thus her identity became part of all things. The implication is that the name Kvothe uses for her is helping her to anchor herself again, but there's not really enough information for anything but theories here.) And she'll do anything to keep them happy. When things are not right, she becomes almost paralysed by it. When things are right, she is joyfully happy.
Anyway, one of the wonderful things about this book is its lack of exposition - it implies but doesn't tell, and leaves a world of possibilities open for the reader to theorise, as I have done, about what happened to Auri. There is no shortage of options based in what we do glean.
Which is why reading the following passage jarred me out of the story and made me very, very angry:
"She knew if you weren’t always stepping lightly as a bird the whole world came apart to crush you. Like a house of cards. Like a bottle against stones. Like a wrist pinned hard beneath a hand with the hot breath smell of want and wine."
Right, so we have this amazingly talented and sensitive alchemist, who's a bit mentally unstable, who's skill was such that a lab was created specifically to fit her tiny size, who has abilities in Naming and Shaping, in a universe where mastering any one of these skills risks complete mental breakdown - and the author needs to imply that her trauma was a rape*?
Overdone. Stupid. Doesn't fit the story.
Lazy author gratuitously uses bullshit plot device.
Why? Why do so many authors have to do this to their female characters? Could she not just have lost the plot like Elodin did? Could the Thing have remained unstated or just implied? And if the author felt the need to give an strong implication, did it have to be the same tired trope that every fucking author ever seems to use?
Seriously, it's almost as if there's a rule in the writer's book that goes "If the character is female and needs trauma in her past, have her raped."
Because we all know women can't be traumatised without also being disempowered sexually, right?
* There is an alternate theory out there that Auri was not the victim in this scenario, and that perhaps she did this to someone else and that was her trauma. I'd *like* to believe that, I'm *trying* to believe that, I really am.
Sadly, that was a very jarring and smelly piece of crap writing that mars an otherwise unusual and delightful book, one that is worth reading for anyone who's interested in the world Rothfuss has created and finding out more about Auri.
I'm just going to try and pretend that line isn't in there. But you're on notice, Rothfuss. Consider yourself told.