Archive for August, 2010

     Okay, the title of this post was suggested to me by the stupid accident I had the other day. I managed to injure my head and neck in the public swimming pool. I was trying to demonstrate how to do an underwater summersault, and the bottom of the pool turned out to be closer than it looked. I felt the headache right away, but I didn’t feel the neck pain until the next day. Ouch.

    While I am laid up, I have been dipping back into the lyrical world of Patricia A. McKillip. She is one of my favorite authors. I love her command of language. She paints with words like a classic master, creating lush worlds and complex characters. In her stories, she blurs the bounderies between idea and reality. Story and word spin themselves into physical shape and take part in the action. The simplest action on the part of one of the characters has repercussions that echo throughout the story. Objects show up again and again, changing shape and meaning as they go. Her stories are rich in discription and imagery, and yet every word, every image, is important to the story. The result is a work of art that can be enjoyed over and over again, even after the suspense is gone.

     I first discovered Patricia A. McKillip while I was in junior high school. I picked up The Riddle-Master of Hed from the bookmobile and was instantly hooked. I had to wait for the subsequent books to be written and I remember anticipating them just as eagerly as my daughter has anticipated Harry Potter. At the time I was also reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. The last two books, Harpist in the Wind by Patricia A. McKillip and Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper, arrived at the bookmobile at the same time. I was in book heaven.

     The thing I liked about the Riddle-Master series while I was reading it, was that I couldn’t figure out what was going on, even after reading two books. Most of the books I had read to that point were easy for me to predict by the time I was two-thirds of the way through. Then I read the last book, and the riddles began to reveal themselves. Suddenly, the answer seemed so obvious I was surprised I hadn’t seen it all along. I love it when that happens.

     Another thing I loved about the Riddle-Master books  was the way the characters used riddles to talk to each other. McKillip created a world with a culture rich in story and legend for the characters to draw on in their conversations. She does the same thing in the Cygnet series–another pair of books I read over and over again.

     Over the years I have read several of her books. I remain in awe of her artistry with language. I attended a conference where one of the speakers talked about imitating the voice or style of an author you admire until you find your own voice. I’ve never actually tried that, but if I did, Patricia A. McKillip is one of those I would be tempted to imitate.


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