Book Excerpts and Expectations: Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Ray Banks, Brandon Sanderson, and More

Jeff VanderMeer • June 5th, 2009 @ 1:32 pm • Culture, Photos, Uncategorized


(Jackson the Clown Cat guards the Zafon advance reader copy with a kind of lazy incompetence.)

So much for work. I did twelve hours yesterday, and I’m learning that in this new paradigm where my brain blows circuits a little more easily I should’ve realized it would be ridiculous to do anything like that today.

Instead, how about a variation on a books received post? Only this time I’ll post a paragraph-long excerpt picked randomly from each book, which I’ve selected to represent the variety of the ridiculous number of books received this week. If you want to play the guessing game, you should be able to try to match the excerpt to the book before you see the cover as you scroll down. I can’t vouch for the excerpts below being PG-13 or lower since I’m doing this completely at random–except that if I happen on a page of pure dialog I’ll pick another page that has more description, and use X and Y for character names if it might give away the answer.

The books are:

Saturday’s Child by Ray Banks
The Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott
A Quiet Belief in Angels by R.J. Ellory
The Demon Redcoat by C.C. Finlay
Star Wars: Omen by Christie Golden
Green by Jay Lake
The Cheater by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg
Mark of the Devil by Diana Rowland
Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (excellent novel)

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“She became proficient in the art of disguise. She went to a costume store and rented a white wig, a pair of thick glasses, and a padded undergarment that went with a Santa Claus outfit. Using an eyebrow pencil, she etched in wrinkles around her mouth and eyes, smeared lipstick on her cheeks, and caked on a ton of powder. She then put on one of Mrs. Daniel’s better dresses and headed to the bank. The teller had counted out the money without making eye contact. Old people were invisible, Anne decided. She assumed it was because no one wanted to be bothered, or perhaps because an older person reminded them of their own elderly parents and the guilt they carried for not caring for them properly.”

****


“The little that remained of Mary Tait’s torso and head had been found in a shallow grave near Odum. Odum sat near Little Satilla River, a tributary of its big brother that branched near Screven. Both her hands had been severed, as had her legs at the thighs. These were never found, and from what could be read in the earth and rocks it seemed that the body parts had been hurled into the river and washed away. Odum was Wayne County; Mary Tait’s hometown was Appling. Now there was a representative from each of the six sheriff’s departments. Their first meeting took place in Jesup, a central poin and closest to the location of Mary’s body. It was Tuesday October fifteenth. Rain hammered the roads and fields, brutal and unrelenting, and the swollen breathlessness of the atmosphere lent itself to the dark melancholy of the gathering. They met in the mid-afternoon, but the overcast nature of the sky gave it the denser shadows of evening.”

***

“But the cat did not appear the next day nor in the days after that. Proctor thought they had left it behind as they traveled from village to village. The new year came and they stayed up late with their hosts for that night, eating grapes at midnight around a bonfire. But the next morning they resumed their journey just like any other day. As the week passed, X had a stubborn determination to reach Y as soon as possible. The roads grew even worse as they wound through mountains that had been cleared of trees. The farms were small and scattered, the people were poor and dirty, and the cities marked by a lack of industry and commerce. The only signs of wealth were the old churches and monasteries, vast in size, rich in decoration, and containing the old fat men to be found anywhere in the country.”

***

“He slipped a hand around to the small of my back, carressing lightly as he looked down at me, ice-blue eyes echoing the faint smile on his lips. I let out a small moan at the feel of his hand. Maybe I was being silly. He obviously wasn’t going to kill me. It didn’t matter who or what he was. Would it really be so wrong to enjoy a little bit of company and pleasure? I deserved it. I needed it. He lowered his head down to mine again, teasing my mouth open and quickly deepening the kiss. I groaned against the heat of his mouth as he pulled me close against him. I could feel the strength of his form, the smooth muscle of his chest and legs, and I could feel the hardness that pressed into the curve of my belly. Warmth surged through me as I felt the power of the arms that held me. His mouth was hot and sweet, and in the kiss was all the power and strength and dominance that I had seen his eyes. His hand slid up to gently fondle my breast, his fingers lightly circling my hard nipple through the thin silk of my shirt.”

***

“Lines of purple and white swirl across the ceiling. I go down the stairs into a club that’s already starting to fill up. Air-conditioned, dark red and pink. I feel like I’ve walked into a lung. A quick scan of the place then I walk over to the bar, hoping to get a drinnk down me before the music kicks in properly. At the moment, I can hear a low funk-jazz thing going on, the kind of music that makes me think I should be wearing a pimp suit and shoes with goldfish in the heels. I pay for a bottle of Holsten Pils and try to look cool by leaning against the bar. From the glances I get, I’m not doing a great job. They know I’m not one of them and they’re vaguely annoyed. Yeah, these people, they’re a completely different class. Seems to bother them more than it bothers me, though. I look around, not afraid to make eye contact.”

***

“It was a period of my life that could have gone either way. Or maybe not. Maybe there’s only one way to go with a needle. I went to school. I took my clothes off at The Manhole. Men ran their fingers along my legs, working their tips inside my underwear, trying to get a thumb in my asshole. I pressed my back against them at the Bijou Sunday mornings, rubbed my cheek against their necks. It all made sense at the time, twenty-two years old, a year out of college, graduate school, the raproachment with my father, the nights and weekends spent dancing on a box bathing in anonymous attention, the rigs full of heroin. But when I try to make sense of it now it’s like a soup. How could I be so many different people? My stripper year ended with an overdose in a rented room a couple of days before Thanksgiving, and when I got out of the hospital I spiraled into a period of unbearable depression. I was never the same after that.”

***

“Eventually, Lightsong had to hear petitions. It was annoying, since the Wedding Jubilation wouldn’t even be over for another few days. The people, however, needed their gods. He knew he shouldn’t feel annoyed. He’d gotten most of a week off for the wedding fete–copiously unattended by either the bride or groom–and that was enough. All he had to do was spend a few hours each day looking at art and listening to the woes of the people. It wasn’t much. Even if it did wear away at his sanity. He sighed, sitting back in his throne. He wore an embroidered cap on his head, matched by a loose robe of gold and red. The garment wrapped over both shoulders, twisted about his body, and was hung with golden tassels. Like all of his clothing, it was even more complicated to put on than it looked.”

***

“The windows of Vestara’s chamber were open, allowing a soft, cool breeze fragrant with the heady scent of dalsa flowers in bloom to waft congenially around the room. Vases containing other varieties of cut flowers were perched on pieces of furniture. Paintings from the finest artists around the world adorned the walls. Everything in the room bespoke beauty, calmness, and contentment. Everything except Vestara herself. She fidgeted on the chair, drawing a soft rebuke from her attendant, Muura. ‘If my lady wishes to appear beautiful, then she must be patient,’ Muura said in the soft, lilting accent of her people.’”

***

“Sleep brought only the memory of death. My relationship with my dreams continues uneasy to this day, but that night was the worst I have ever known. I don’t recall my dreams when Federo first stole me away from Papa. The dreams of small children are said to be as unformed as their thoughts, but that cannot be true. My thoughts were well-formed even then. I knew what I wanted and did not want. Later I dreamed of the past, Endurance and my grandmother and my little life among the ditches and fields of Papa’s rice. Those were about loss and regret. As I grew older and my training became more complex, I often dreamed of the sorts of things one does then–endless loaves of bread spilling from the oven, or reading a book that bred new pages for itself faster than I could turn them.”

***

“Inside, everything was white. The walls and ceiling were painted an immaculate white. White silk curtains. A small bed covered with white sheets. A white carpet. White shelves and cupboards. After the darkness that had prevailed throughout the house, the contrast dazzled my vision for a few seconds. The room seemed to be straight out of a fairy tale. There were toys and storybooks on the shelves. A life-size china harlequin sat at a dressing table, looking at himself in the mirror. A mobile of white birds hung from the ceiling. At first sight it looked like the room of a spoiled child, but it had the oppressive air of a funeral chamber. I sat on the bed and sighed. Something in the room, I now noticed, seemed out of place. Beginning with the smell, a sickly, sweet stench. I stood up and looked around me. On a chest of drawers I saw a china plate with a black candle, its wax melted into beads. I turned around. The smell seemed to be coming from the head of the bed.”

***


The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

8 Responses to “Book Excerpts and Expectations: Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Ray Banks, Brandon Sanderson, and More”

  1. Tommy says:

    What an awesome picture (and funny caption) of Jackson guarding the book :)

  2. Hellbound Heart says:

    i love the angel’s game cover….

    peace and love…..

    ps you guys should still be a member of the british empire as you’d be havivg a long weekend this weekend, queeb’s birthday and all…..good on ya lizzie….

  3. Hellbound Heart says:

    having, i mean….

  4. Larry says:

    At least Jackson has some taste in which books to guard incompetently :D Glad that you enjoyed it quite a bit as well. I have to admit that I’m curious to see if Robert Graves’ daughter came anywhere near the beauty of the original prose; sounds like she did.

  5. Hellbound Heart says:

    oh hell QUEEN NOT QUEEB…..what’s a bloody queeb anyway…

  6. Dark Wolf says:

    That is one book to guard. I can’t wait for my copy to arrive :)
    I asked the Romanian publisher of Carlos Ruiz Zafon when this novel will be out in Romanian, since I would have liked to read it in my language because both languages are related and I was hoping for a better feeling of the novel. But their beginning of the year failed to arrive, so I have to settle to the English edition.
    (note to myself: I have to find time to finally begin to improve my Spanish :) ).

  7. Andrew says:

    I have Stephen Elliott’s “My Girlfriend Comes To The City And Beats Me Up,” and it’s just as bizarre throughout as that one paragraph you excerpted. I find it funny that he’s doing “memoir” now, as he had this whole afterward in “My Girlfriend Comes…” about how he figured he should publish the stuff as fiction since he had a habit of exaggerating to the point of outright lying, and didn’t want to end up like James Frey. Haha.

  8. Callboyklaus says:

    In einem Forum wurde dieser Artikel angelinkt und darueber bin ich auf deinem Webblog gelandet. Normalerweiße bin ich nicht so der Blogleser sondern lieber in Foren unterwegs, aber wie ich es jetzt bei deinem Blog gesehen habe koennen Blogs doch auch ganz infornativ sein. Vielleicht aendere ich ja irgendwann meine denkweise und bin irgendwann lieber auf Blogs als auf Foren unterwegs :).

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