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Or What You Will (2020)

de Jo Walton

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1509139,634 (3.98)17
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Mostrando 1-5 de 9 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
I should really stop reading Jo Walton. Every time I read one of her books, I am enchanted by the good ideas and frustrated by the disappointing execution.

This book is narrated by a character you could call a muse, or an imaginary friend, or a schizophrenic hallucination. The narrator lives inside the head of Sylvia, an aging writer, and he becomes the characters in her books. Writing her books is a collaborative process between the author and this muse. The nature of his existence is strange - she does not think of him as something he created, but as another person. He intervenes at crucial points in her life, and (to the extent that his narration can be taken as reliable) there are times when Sylvia and other people can see him.

Sylvia is dying, and she is writing one last book before her death. The narrator does not want to die, and he does not want Sylvia to die, so he is trying to get her to write herself into her fantasy world so that the two of them can live forever there.

"Or What You Will" moves back and forth between the fantasy world that Sylvia is writing, and the narrator's account of her days wandering Florence while she writes, and flashbacks about his role in her life.

The fantasy novel is bizarre and completely incohesive. It is set in an alternate Florence, where Pico della Mirandola (a real historical person) discovered a way to pause time in the Renaissance and conquer death, so people only die if they want to. In addition to some historical people, there are also a lot of characters from Shakespeare's Tempest and Twelfth Night, for no apparent reason, and some people from Victorian England who get transported into the world. I had a lot of problems with this world. For one thing, the characters discuss the fact that progress cannot happen. So there are a bunch of intellectual magicians who have lived for 500 years and made no progress? That sounds like a very boring existence. It's a very rosy version of the Renaissance that completely ignores the prevalence of disease and how difficult things were for people who weren't very rich. The use of Shakespearean characters feels lazy - they're just there to have some familiar names. Caliban shows up early on, in a scene that sets off a lot of the action of the novel, and yet we never see him again, despite the fact that he promises to return in a few days. That's an entire storyline that just gets dropped.

Sylvia's story is more coherent (content warning: the book has detailed descriptions of her relationship with an abusive husband), but I'm not sure what the point of it is, other than how art can be a solace to the artist. ( )
  Gwendydd | Apr 11, 2021 |
Our narrator, an idea inside a writer's head, tells us about his writer, Sylvia, who is visiting Florence and working on a new book. He has an idea to give them both immortality, and it's going to take all of their ingenuity to make it happen.

This very meta work reminded me of If On a Winter's Night a Traveler at first, but it's wholly original and a little more in the fantasy genre, which I say more because of Sylvia's writing (her story is part of this story too) than anything that happens in the main narrative. I was kept guessing for much of the story, was compelled to read the last 100 pages or so all in one sitting, and had a smile on my face in the end. ( )
  bell7 | Feb 6, 2021 |
Every Jo Walton book I've read has been a little esoteric, experimental in some way, and never the same way twice. This book wasn't much like anything else of hers I've read, although the muse character had echoes in her other books, of course, and her love of Italy is a thread in many. I loved the tongue-in-cheek references to her other novels, and their joke titles. Maybe it's an acquired taste, but I like how she always keeps you guessing what she's going to try next. ( )
  bibliovermis | Dec 23, 2020 |
“He has been too many things to count. He has been a dragon with a boy on his back. He has been a scholar, a warrior, a lover, and a thief. He has been dream and dreamer. He has been a god.”

“Writers are not nice people. We can't be.”

“Of course, all books are easier to read that to describe. This is true even when you’re a character in them, when that’s been your whole life, when you began as the author’s imaginary friend and wound up as narrator, protagonist, and bit part player in her over thirty novels. But I don’t know why we’re talking about you. This is a book about me."

I think this last quote sums up this wonderfully inventive novel. How a lonely girl's imaginary childhood friend, returns in her adulthood, rescuing her again, by becoming a key force in the novels that she is writing. She is now a 73 year old acclaimed author and is about to finally do away with her constant companion, but of course, “He” has different ideas. Walton's latest is another marvel of crafty intelligence and a paen to her love of literature. ( )
  msf59 | Nov 22, 2020 |
What a wonderfully impossible book to review in any traditional sense! I received an advance copy from the author, a very kind gesture, and I'm looking forward to talking this book up to library patrons and reader friends alike when it launches in July. Whenever a new Walton book appears I have to reconfigure my favorites settings, as it were; where does the new one fit into the grand scheme of her catalogue, and how deeply do I feel it was written just for me? In this case, Or What You Will feels like a love letter: to Florence and its art and most especially its food, to the notion of many lives lived in one lifetime, to some of the less obvious corners of the fantasy canon, to Shakespeare (and my favorite of his plays, The Tempest), to unusual families and unorthodox friendships, and most of all to readers. ( )
  Menshevixen | Oct 13, 2020 |
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I know more than Apollo, For oft when he lies sleeping I see the stars at bloody wars In the wounded welkin weeping. -"TOM O'BEDLAM'S SONG" ANONYMOUS, FIFTEENTH CENTURY
If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbably fiction. - FABIAN, 'Twelfth Night' WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
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This for everyone who ever had an imaginary friend.
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She won't let me tell all the stories.
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