March 26, 2009 Radiant Darkness
“Gleaming in the dark/I’m as light as air/floating there breathlessly/when the dream dissolves…” Nina Gordon sings in her 2001 solo song “Tonight and the Rest of My Life.” It embodies the idea of Radiant Darkness I think, and the dark romantic mood I find settling over me.
I read Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman recently. I tried to reach her to ask her about her title and her inspiration, but she never responded. When I saw her book at the library book sale, I had to buy it. Whitman uses my title to describe the teenage journey of Persephone. The similarities are striking. Did my work inspire her at all or is it merely coincidence?
In any case, her Persephone chooses to go to the underworld. There is no abduction in Whitman’s mind. More so, Persephone runs away from her mother for her love of a dark and tragic bad boy. Although Whitman doesn’t psychoanalyze, I would guess that her Demeter is demanding, controlling and perhaps even abusive. Be it lack of a male role model or a strained mother-daughter relationship, Persephone is not exactly a damsel in distress. She is troubled and takes on a typical teenage attitude. Although I enjoyed the book, I still couldn’t get past our different takes on Persephone.
I understand the allure of all that is dark, but embracing the Radiant Darkness is never completely our choice. Depression and other burdens are inherited. Nature and nurture propel us into our original pain. What we do with it or how we deal with it that is where choice comes into play.
Some people ignore the night and choose to put on a happy face. Others embrace the night and relish the romanticism. Those with masks covering their emotional scars are more likely to up and end it all out of the blue. Those who surrender to their melancholy moods find it easier to eventually move past them. However, it is never wise to flirt with death for too long. Some succumb not only to the angst, but to the anger and hatred as well. Stay too long in the underworld and you’ll find no way to return.
A Feast for Crows by George RR Martin also reeks of romanticism. It takes place in a fictional Medieval Europe where seasons last decades. Perhaps it is the most potent pathetic fallacy of all! The Song of Fire and Ice series is loosely based on the War of the Roses and the Albigensian Crusades. Much of it is political intrigue. There are often violent plot twists. It is a world where even the seemingly good can never catch a break.
It is an interesting contrast to The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. Goodkind’s style is less flowery, but there is still a strong romantic thread. The Catholicism in Goodkind’s past is present in the series. The idea of a Confessor is perhaps a romanticized version of Catholic Confession. Goodkind also explores the idea of capitalism vs. socialism, as well as racism in his books.
I have yet to determine a specific theme in A Feast for Crows. I can say it is like Edgar Allan Poe wrote The Lord of The Rings though. Good and evil aren’t as clear as they are in LOTR and certainly there is more sex in the series. Like the Robert Frost poem of the same name, Of Fire and Ice, the series appears to be centered on desire and hatred. It is gritty, but good.
My only problem with Martin is the problem I have with Faulkner. The alternating points of view or shifting stories make it difficult to keep in all straight in my head. Diagrams might help or watching the movie version if they ever made one. If Hemingway is about Subtext, then perhaps so is Goodkind. And Martin, like Faulkner, is about Subversion. I appreciated the breadth and scope of the Song of Fire and Ice Series, even if I can’t quite focus on the overall plot!
All of this fantasy has required too much focus! I miss reading the straight forward nonfiction and finding how it fits into my life. I wish for the weightlessness that Gordon sings of in her song—the ecstasy of darkness.