I am a writer who is trained as a literary academic. This means that the default way I read involves analysis - close attention to the shape of the text, the use of language, the deployment of theme. I analyze a work of literature not because I don't love and respect the telling of stories, but because I do. I want to learn to be a better writer. I want to show other people why stories are beautiful, why I love the texts I love.
But the hazard of these occupations is that it has become increasingly hard for me to read as a reader. To just sit down and let a story wash over me, and carry me somewhere outside of myself. That doesn't mean that I don't still find stories and books that make me gasp in wonder or appreciation, that make me weep from the tragedy, it just means that I experience the magic differently than I used to. So the times when I pick up a short story or a novel and can just read it, well, those are gifts and I do not take them lightly.
Those moments have nothing, it seems, to do with how much I love an author, or how good I think the work is. Stephen King's IT is a book that is very firmly in my top ten list of all time. And I am very happily dissecting it right now for an article on the visual in modern horror fiction. One of the things I love about it is how smart the book is, and I'm quite enjoying poking at the man behind the curtain. But his short story, "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" - I felt drunk for a good half an hour after reading that. Magic. A gift. And it broke my heart a little to dig into my response to the story deeply enough to teach it.
So that's why I'm not going to review Pat Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear. Because for a thousand pages - a thousand pages - there was just the magic of a story. "Just." As if that is a light thing, or a small one, for a writer to do. I will just say that it is brilliant, that I loved it, that I am proud of Pat for taking the time to write the best book he could. I will just say that it is magic.