Tag Archives: The Barrow

When Closer Is Farther

Maybe I should have titled this post, “Through the looking glass.” Because I sort of feel about the book I just tried to read like I imagine Alice did when she stepped through the looking glass and into Wonderland as place of opposite dimensions and misaligned corners so that something’s very familiarity enhanced its Otherness by virtue of being almost-but-not-quite right.

What happened was that I tried to read The Barrow by Mark Smythie. It came recommended for various reasons, mostly that one of my favorite fantasy subgenres is grimdark adventuretime shit. I will give the sample another shot, when I am less sleep-deprived, and see if it was just a trick of my exhaustion, but last night when I tried to read it…I couldn’t, because his writing was too close to my own. It was like trying to read something I wrote 10 years ago, where the cycle and flow of words would shift within the same paragraph from being exactly how I would say it to…not, but not in a way that felt clumsy and juvenile and would make me cringe to read back now, with my old and jaundiced editorial eye, if it were my own. It was bizarre to find myself going in an out of sync with the guy’s words, and every time we fell out it was jarring and uncomfortable. Like deal-breakingly jarring.

I am not sure I have ever experienced this before. I have authors whose words hypnotize me because they say things in ways I never would but find mesmerizing to hear. I have authors who write things pretty much the way I would, if I were writing that story. I have authors whose books I cannot read because of the very Otherness of their thought patterns displaying in their writing. But I have never had someone who writes two sentences like I would and fumbles the third, over and over again. Just enough to get me into a rhythm and then bounce me back out – and not in a good way, because it’s clearly not an intentional way. It simply is. What is this guy, an ENTJ or something?

Anyone else ever experienced this with someone’s writing?

**Edited to add: I want to make it absolutely clear that I don’t mean to say I felt like the writing was actually clumsy or juvenile. I honestly cannot evaluate the sentences that threw me for a loop objectively, because my issue was more that’s not how I would say that than it was “that was a tragic sentence.” I think. Maybe someone can read the sample for me and confirm it’s either spotty or that this is purely and strictly a Lily issue, because he was writing a funhouse mirror version of my writing.

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