Saturday, February 27, 2010

A couple more answers!

Knocking off two more questions on Ask Me Anything! 2010.

LC Scotty asks, easily enough: What is lemon curd? It sounds like something I should be eating.

Actually, I'm not sure if it's something Scotty should be eating, if he's asking from a health standpoint. Not that it's necessarily bad for you, either, but it's definitely something that you should be eating if you like things that taste good and if you file lemon under your personal label of "Things That Taste Good".

But what is lemon curd? It's a lemon-flavored spread that is made with eggs, sugar, and flavorings whipped together. The lemon flavor is pleasantly intense, but with enough sweetness to offset the lemon just enough. I spread mine on toast and English muffins. The flavor is strong enough that one doesn't need a giant amount on the bread to make it taste good. It's a very pleasant change of pace from jelly or jam. (I can't get behind marmalade. Never liked the stuff.)

Here's a recipe, but I'll buying the stuff in a jar just the same. I've read that fruit curds don't have to be lemon, but lemon's what I see all the time.

Kerry asks: Why has no one ever discovered a Bigfoot (or a carcass thereof), when the creature has been written about and spoken of in native American culture for thousands of years??

Probably for the same reasons that no one's ever found a mermaid at sea or discovered the Loch Ness Monster, and probably for the same reason that no one has ever captured or photographed one of the "Hidden Folk" or Iceland...the legends behind these beasts almost surely have roots in something real from way back when, but what it was? No one now knows, and it was also almost surely something not akin to what legendary creature would later accrue around it.

In the case of mermaids, the prevailing theory is that what was originally taken to be a mermaid was actually a manatee. In the case of Sasquatch, I suspect something similar. Maybe a particularly enormous bear, seen rearing onto its back legs. But thinking about it more, the notion of a giant human lurking somewhere "out there" is not limited to the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest; virtually every human culture on Earth has at one time had some kind of similar legend. (The Yeti of the Himalayas is a good example.) They are among the most enduring of all legends.

Paul has a lengthy query about my favorite book, Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan. Part one: You mentioned the historical underpinnings of Kay's novel The Lions of Al Rassan. Were you familiar with the historical facts before you read Lions the first time, or did you research that after? How did that knowledge affect your understanding and enjoyment of the novel?

The first time I read the book, I knew quite little about the period. Upon later re-reads...I don't know a whole lot more about the period, aside from the broad strokes of the era. I certainly am not in any kind of position to evaluate GGK's fidelity to the historical record, but as he is writing fantasy, to make such an evaluation would surely miss the point entirely.

I do know that history has rarely been driven by "larger than life" events and "larger than life" people as GGK depicts, but he has always admitted that he is not writing history after all. I find that GGK's historical works tend to affect my understanding and enjoyment of the real history, rather than the other way around.

Back to Paul:

My biggest beef with Lions (I'm sure you've heard me say this before) is that I felt manipulated by the author at two specific points in the narrative. Kay sets us up to believe one thing has occurred, and then, much later, reveals that something entirely different actually happened. His protestations that he did it consciously and intentionally to provoke a specific reaction in the reader notwithstanding, I found it disturbing to my willing suspension of disbelief. It distracted me from the narrative, and made the author very apparent to me. A cardinal sin in writing we are told. What was your reaction to the events in the book I am talking about? how did it affect you differently from me?

Hmmmm. Firstly, I'm honestly not sure of what events in the book Paul is referencing, although I suspect he's referring in part to the final duel of the novel? Without spoiling things, the conflicts come, in the end, to a single duel between the two principal men of the book. Which one wins? I won't tell...but GGK writes the duel in such a way that we don't even know which man is doing what in the fighting. I find it fascinating.

"Being aware of the author" isn't something that's ever much bothered me; in nearly every book I've ever read, I've been aware of the author at some point or other. Complete immersion in a story is something that rarely happens to me, and I almost always find myself aware of the author to one extent or another.

Not much of an answer, but without knowing specifically which events we're discussing, I can't go much farther into it.

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