While struggling with a vertigo attack today, I was reminded of a quote from one of my favorite authors Stephen R. Donaldson, a portion of which titles this compilation of previous postings on the topic. When I visited his site today looking for the release date for the next book, I discovered that I’m going to be waiting a long time. 2007, is the best guess; and the quartet of books isn’t due to be finished until 2013. This could be a new test of patience on my part. And I thought waiting on Harry Potter books was hard…
Concerning “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever” which I finished re-reading for the 4th time recently.
I stumbled across several words that seemed, well, obscure at best, this time around. I was trying to explore the unexplored with this reading (in preparation for the next series of books) so I’ve been taking time to research a few of the more impenetrable words on the ‘net. I was pleased when I Google’d up this thread online. In fact, it was the only reference for the word “unhermeneuticable“, which was how I found it in the first place. Words like “Formication” (a feeling like insects crawling under your skin) can be found there as well.
(I have removed the direct links to the Kevin’s watch website, replacing them with links to the Wayback Machine archive. The site appears to be infected with malware as of 2018. -ed.)
Function: noun plural but singular or plural in construction
: the study of the methodological principles of interpretation (as of
the Bible) (from www.m-w.com)
Which, as “unhermeneuticable” would be something like “a non-methodological principle of interpretation”. Basically an “inexplicable conclusion”, most likely with religious overtones.
[The author himself has answered this question, here]
A few words on the proper reading of Donaldson, from an expert:
- Unless you are reading the first Covenant trilogy, prepare your brain to be stretched to new proportions. SRD writes on a college level. He pulls no punches, and he doesn’t explain obscure concepts unless they are key to the novel’s progression. You are expected to keep up. The first Covenant Trilogy was written under extreme editorial pressure. They sliced out whole chapters, and re-edited much of the writing to make it appeal to less-educated and younger people. He himself has commented on this, and included one of the chapters that was removed in the short story collection Daughter of Regals. Every other set of books that he’s written has been longer and far more difficult to understand than the first Covenant trilogy.
- Plot progression can be slow. Glacially slow in some books. That’s OK, because plot isn’t what you read Donaldson for. As an example, the first two books of the Gap series are merely an intro to the story that the Gap series tells. It doesn’t really get rolling until the third book and the introduction of the grafted Thermopyle (pronounced “Ther-MOP-i-lee, BTW) character.
- Donaldson is obsessed with exploring the concept of redemption. Because of this, pretty much every character he creates suffers horribly through a good portion of the story. I’ve had several people tell me that they couldn’t get past the descriptions of leprosy in the first few chapters of “Lord Foul’s Bane”. But if you don’t understand the suffering of the character, you won’t appreciate the monumental task of redeeming that character. Exploring the world of leprosy brings you face to face with the impossibility of Covenant’s ever accepting himself in the role of hero. Reliving the crimes of the characters in the Gap series (explored in the first two books) gives you an idea of what those characters face when the true nature of the threat to humanity is revealed in the later novels.
That pretty much covers it. I finished the second book in Gap and went that’s it? The next one better get better and doggedly went on. I was rewarded with a pretty decent story from that point onward. It was a lot like reading Dune Messiah and Children of Dune. Doesn’t make any sense unless you read God Emperor of Dune. That’s where the payoff is.
Stone and Sea are deep in life, two unalterable symbols of the world. Permanence at rest and permanence in motion, participants in the Power that remains.Giantish truism
Editor’s note. I have now read all of the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series. You should take my word for it and skip those last four books. They were some of the most unpleasant reading I’ve ever had to endure. So unpleasant that I found audiobook copies of the text and listened to them rather than even try to read them myself.
It was this experience with reading that finally convinced me that I had a problem with the back and forth eye movement setting off my vertigo. The story was so glacial in pace, with descriptions of battle scenes that made no sense from a strategic position, with decisions made by the protagonists that kept me screaming at the book no, don’t do that, combined with my disability to make the chore of reading itself so miserable that I would never have gotten through the books without audio assistance.
Even so, the climactic ending ruined most of the other stories for me. There are some things that a writer should simply not reveal to the reader. The ending of the series was one of those things that should have been left unsaid. To have waited so long only to be disappointed with the work. It was truly heartbreaking.