A friend recently lent me his copy of Across the Nightingale Floor by the pseudonymous "Lian Hearn". I enjoyed reading it even as I so often have enjoyed eating salty, greasy french fries. The novel is fun, manipulative, exciting, shallow, and well-written. What it lacks is a soul. Unlike Richard Adams's Shardik --- with which it has many surface similarities --- Nightingale contains no moral core, teaches no lesson, reaches no conclusion.

Among other weaknesses the book falls hard, and repeatedly, for what I call the Ugly Fallacy. Noble characters all look beautiful, evil villains are misshapen and squint-eyed, peasants have a blockishly stolid aspect, etc., etc. (Come on now, surprise the reader once in a while with a deformed hero or a comely fiend!) The plot is uniformly predictable, and the ending is a blatant lead-in to a sequel. The scenes of torture feel far too-lovingly drawn.

But there's a positive side to Across the Nightingale Floor, besides the guilty-pleasure french-fry factor: the book is exceptionally strong in its ability to induce a heightened mental state of awareness --- the meta-perceptive feeling of here-and-nowness evoked by certain action/adventure stories (esp. those of the late Keith Laumer) and captured so perfectly in Henry Taylor's poem "After a Movie". Perhaps some day Hearn's talents to do that kind of magic will be applied to a more worthy theme ...

(see also NimbusHaloGloryAureole (15 Nov 2001), TheUglyFallacy (7 Dec 2003), BeautifulVirtue (15 Dec 2003), GlormBulbSorting (14 Aug 2004), ...)

TopicLiterature - TopicPersonalHistory - 2005-02-26

(correlates: NimbusHaloGloryAureole, FoulIsFair, SmellOfGoodProse, ...)