I'm thirteen years old, sitting in a car parked near a little cemetery in western Massachusetts. It's Summer, and the trees are waving in the breeze, splashing light and shadow like water. A man with peppery-gray hair and wiry frame, a seasoned, old-time Methodist lay-preacher (the kind that sang songs like they meant them and gave altar calls) taps on the window. He's a guest speaker at the Methodist Summer Camp I've just been attending and he's heard that one of the rougher boys had given me a hard time. As a teacher now, I know what that means from the adult side of the equation. Back then, I'm just a kid with his nose stuck in a book. I step out of the car and hear his apologies and answer his questions. As a polite note, he asks what I'm reading. I tell him it's The Scions of Shannara by Terry Brooks. He nods and saunters off to speak with my mother. I get back in the car and keep reading. The leaves continue to spill light and shadow. I heard that old Methodist lay-preacher preach several summers in a row. He was a great old man. His religion was simple, and he meant it. The only name I know him by is "Coach." When I pick up a Shannara book, I don't remember much of the plot, but I do remember Coach, the cemetery, and the light on the leaves.
This post covers chapters 12 and 13 of Terry Brooks' The Druid of Shannara, book two in the Heritage of Shannara Series.
*Plot Points Below*
As you know if you've been reading this series of posts, I haven't read The Druid of Shannara since Jr. High and I remember very little of it. One reason for that may be that much of the book is spent relating the characters' various subjective responses to Quickening. If Alcibides is the Erotic Man, then Quickening is a sort of Erotic Woman. She is mastered by her need to fulfill her father's mandate and her great powers of attraction foster a blind need in her followers to serve her. Since her followers, however, are to varying degrees rational men, much of the book is spent watching them reason (or rationalize) about their need to follow Quickening. It's an interesting idea for a fantasy novel, this subjective turn. The conceit in itself is worthy of the most scathing feminist critique I can think of (she's is a walking sex object), but that subjective turn is still interesting.
On a more banal note, Honer Dees returns us to Terry Brooks' fascination with trackers and pioneers. I've made a point of griping about this in both The Elfstones of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara as an element unsuited to medieval fantasy. However, the world of Shannara is a post-apocalyptic one, though it masquerades as medieval, and I concede Brooks' fundamental right to people his future North America as he chooses. I object to the choice on aesthetic grounds as these American Western touches abruptly change the "flavor" of the story whenever they appear.
The final note is a quibble that relates back to the first note, and that is that it would be better if Brooks could find a way of showing Quickening's powers of fascination rather than continually telling us how fascinating she is. However, his choice to continue to keep her distant is a wise one given what she is and how she functions as a plot device. I understand that the choice makes it difficult to "show" when the whole point is not to "show" her so much that she becomes familiar. I still think it can be done, but that probably marks the line between "good" writer and "great."
That's all I have for now. Thanks for putting up with my nostalgia (longing for a homecoming).
Somewhere, those leaves are still dancing in light...