Sheer Brilliance

Recommendation for folks who love writing, there is something for everyone in The City of Dreaming Books, Walter Moers, translated by John Brownjohn, Overlook TP, 2008. Moers rakes the publishing industry – from an author’s perspective -from top to bottom. He gives equal treatment to authors, to books, to libraries, to the writing process, and he does it with humor and aplomb. For example, he cites numerous books and authors but when treating with books and authors from our libraries – as opposed to those created for the purpose of the book – he employs anagrams so that I had much fun stopping to puzzle out who was being addressed. In one instance, even when his 18th Sonnet was quoted, it still took me a moment to verify that he was, indeed, alluding to The Bard of Avon.

Better than that exercise, are his observations. Here are just a few:

“I traversed the compositor’s quarter, where the buildings were faced with worn-out lead type, and walked along Editorial Lane, which rang with the groans and curses of the copy-editors at work.”

“I always found it suspicious when writers get together in groups because it was obvious that they did so, not with any serious work in mind, but for social reasons.”

“It isn’t the brain that governs our state of mind; it’s the stomach.”

“The problem is this: in order to make money – lots of money – we don’t need flawless literary masterpieces. What we need is mediocre rubbish, trash suitable for mass consumption. More and more, bigger and bigger blockbusters of less and less significance. What counts is the paper we sell, not the words that are printed on it.”

There is a good story, a mystery, and a protagonist dragon as well as a villain with a truly diabolical scheme to take over the world, and supporting characters galore to flesh the whole, absurd adventure. If you are looking for epic fantasy, skip this one but if you are looking for merely brilliant prose to present a decent story, a book to announce out loud all the things you’ve long suspected about writing, this is it. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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