Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

Sunday evening satiation

A friend bought me a rather grand version of Sunday lunch today - any meal that involves oysters, and smoked salmon, and beef, and dessert is going to leave me pleasantly quiet for several days...

I plan nonetheless to do some more writing this evening - back to Emma and Caro and the elves and vampires, I think. Which makes no sense to anyone but the few people who get to read this stuff in regular daily progress, or have it read to them.

I've got to watch PUFFBALL later though, the new Nicholas Roeg film which has had less than stellar reviews - luckily, I got sent a DVD and so don't have to trek to a cinema in order not to be entertained very much. On my list of things that did not entertain me very much, by the way, is Doctor Horrible - not smart or funny enough for the vaguely ick ending; I did not need to be told that sometimes you pull dumb stunts which frakk you over forever, thank you very much Joss, I sort of knew that already from watching friends in real life.

On the bright side, I am re-reading various favourite books as displacement activity - I got through Mattingly's The Defeat of the Spanish Armada again and am now engaged in a massive run-through of The Black Company and its sequels.

Garrett Mattingly was an American historian and expert on Renaissance diplomacy whose earlier books are solid academic studies and who then wrote this last book which is just as solid, but reads like New Journalism. He drags us around cinematically between European capitals, showing us the death of Mary of Scotland, the political troubles of Henri of Valois and Henri of Navarre, the scheming of the Pope and his Cardinals, the bureaucratic calm of Philip of Spain and the equal fanaticism of Drake. As an account of context, it is admirable, and also managed to make the progress of the battles clear - it's the Great Man school of history done with admirable panache. It's part of the reason why I thought Elizabeth - The Golden Age sucked so badly - there is no excuse for messing this stuff up when all you need to do is stick with Mattingly.

More on Glen Cook and the thoroughly horrid world through which the Black Company fights on some other occasion.
Inasmuch as the overall title of the sequence pays homage to Arthur Conan doyle's novel of mercenary warfare -The White Company (1891)- it is homage of a double-edged kind. GC's mercenaries are entirely ruthless in their use of magic and massacre and are for much of the first sequence employees of the almost entirely evil enchantress Lady and her empire, ruled with an iron fist and a bevy of undead magicians (cf. nazgul). Their eventual allegiance to the cause of what passes for righteousness is a mixture of personal loyalty and expediency, as is the eventual alliance of the White Rose's rebels and the Lady against a malign sleeper, the latter's resurrected and even more evil husband, the Dominator. In subsequent books, the depleted company travels South looking for its roots, and finding them to be even more sinister than expected, while characters who stayed in the north struggle to keep dead evil down. The books are characterised by a hard-boiled cynicism that elides genially into the Dick and Myrna duo that the relationship between the Company's doctor, later commander, and the Lady grows into; the sequence is notable for its bracing refusal of the usual moralizing tropes of the genre - where else in the genre do we find a female dark lord and then have her turn into the love interest?
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