Thursday, November 18, 2010

In Common With Greatness

Ursula LeGuin's Lavinia is so good I didn't even feel my mind being blown until afterward. LeGuin does that to me sometimes. But that's not what I came to talk to you about.

In the Afterward, she talks about research. Other things, too, but mostly research. She describes how her puzzlement over the geography of the Aeneid was relieved when a friend of hers, described as a "geomancer," showed her maps from the Grande Carte Stradale d'Italia on which she could find her way around it in the modern world. "There, in large scale, near Croce di Solferato, is Vergil's Albunea, properly convenient to Laurentium; and there it is, Rio Torto, the river that must have been Numicus...It was deeply touching to me to find these places of legend on a highway map of the Touring Club Italiano. On the map and in the myth, they are real." She also geeks out over a book published in the 1930s, Vergil's Latium, by Bertha Tilly, who took a walking tour of relevant sites with a Brownie camera.

And I said: "Yes." I am not in LeGuin's league and won't pretend to be, but we have this in common, the indescribable orgasmic sweetness of doing the research and diving into the real world and finding the story incarnated there, organic, interdependent and now all you have to do is write the thing.

I have no patience with people who say "It's only a story" and just make things up, taking the easy way. They're cheating themselves out of joy.

Worse, they're cheating the story.

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