Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Forgotten Masters: E.R. Eddison

E.R. Eddison. I don't know if you've heard of him. I can hardly claim to be the authority on him, as I've only read one book of his-- his seminal work The Worm Ouroboros (& I'm anxious to get my mitts on the out of print Zimiamvian Trilogy). So don't take my word for it when I say E.R. Eddison is a forgotten master. No, instead take a little fellow named J.R.R. Tolkien's word, when he said E.R. Eddison was "the greatest and most convincing writer of 'invented worlds' that I have read." Or C.S. Lewis's when he said "No writer can be said to remind us of Eddison." See, the way Tolkien prefigures modern fantasy-- his elves & dwarves populating the tropes of the genre-- E.R. Eddison stood tall when the Inklings were looking for a star to guide their ships by.

The Worm Ouroboros is written in faux archiac style, & the diction really sings at points. E.R. Eddison doesn't write in the old school prose for no reason; the soup he stirs the words in lead you to believe you really are reading of the likes of Beowulf & Gilgamesh. Plus, The Worm Ouroboros has possibly the best fight scene I've read in any book-- against a manticore. Forget famous drow doing wire-fighting moves; THAT is a battle worth paying attention to. E.R. Eddison had been crafting the world (Mercury, don't you know) since his childhood, & the combination of youthful logic & fervor with adult craft & guile makes the story work across every level-- up to & including the Pre-Post-Modern textual recursion.

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