The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
Burt reminded me that posts have been lacking lately...and so I am posting a sketch to save Burt from eating sad ham.
The Raw Shark Texts is an extremely interestingly covered book I picked up off the 75% off rack whilst waiting to check out at Barnes & Noble. I don't even remember the other book I was buying, but this one was a very very nice surprise. People are a little mixed on the ending (which I won't spoil), but I felt quiet satisfied when I ran out of pages to place a bookmark in. The story centers on Eric Sanderson, who has no idea who he is.
The only clues he can trust (or can he?) were left to him by himself before he forgot who he was. The clues are not straightforward, however, and are loaded with secret messages and puzzles. As if that's not bad enough, he's being chased by a linguistic entitity on a mission to devour him. Namely, a huge conceptual shark called the Ludovician that swims, in a literal sense, in the figurative flow of language in information. For example, as you're reading the words I've written, information is flowing from your screen to your head, so we're creating an informational flow! Once the Ludovician traces Eric's scent on a flow of information, he can find Eric and quite literally devour him as an actual shark would with the teeth and the ripping skin and bones, etc.
Eric's goal is to avoid the Ludovician until he can destroy it, if he can figure out how to destroy it. He has to change his identity to hide his scent, surround himself with books and letters to throw the shark off (too many linguistic flows make the "water" choppy to navigate), and rely on people he maybe shouldn't trust. As one quick review put it: "Hunting the answers as he is hunted, Eric is led on a journey that will either bring the First Eric Sanderson back to life or destroy both Eric Sandersons forever."
So the sketch is showing how the Ludovician notes the scent of Eric's thoughts as he reads the letter he wrote to himself at the beginning of the story. IE, when he first wrote the letter the Ludovician was present, so it traces his "scent" on the letter from his past self into the head of his present self as he reads it. If that makes any sense.
Pierre Menard, Author of The Quixote from "Labyrinths," by Jorge Borges
A French author holes himself up in seclusion for a very long time. He is particularly brilliant, and this trait has allowed him to master the 17th-century Spanish dialect in a relatively short amount of time. He becomes so engrossed in the time period that he happens to recreate (on his own), word-for-word, some fragments of Cervantes' Don Quixote.
The narrator of the story presentsa literary review of Menard's The Quixote. He pulls a passage and describes how Cervantes' version is "almost expected" because of the commentary he was making in his own time, while Menard's work is pure genius because the allusion is thicker, since Menard is a modern author.
When I first read through the story, I misunderstood it as Menard just going off and copying the original text and passing it off as his own "interpretation." And the thought of someone praising this as "genius" just made me roll. After having the real message pointed out to me, however, I think it's a lot crazier. Someone assuming Cervantes' persona to the point he is able to recreate his works? HAHA. And the idea that since the setting of the book is so far removed from the modern day, this new Quixote is oh-so-much more potent a piece of literature. That cracks me up.
So I drew a modern day author (much more modern than when Borges wrote this short story) assuming a knightly persona.
And I also drew this:
Which is, of course, a pencil mace. Writing is a powerful and potentially dangerous sport, my friends.
About the illustrations:
These were done in Micron pen. I'm having fun with this sketchier style!
The Library of Babel from "Labyrinths" by Jorge Borges
Let me just cut to the chase. This short story by Borges is one of the best works I have had the chance to read. And let me just tell you know that this is only the first in a series I'll be doing on other Labyrinth stories. They are all great. This one and Pierre Menard, Author of The Quixote are particularly mind-blowing. To be fair, if you don't want me revealing some of the awesomeness, please go ahead and read the story before reading this post. The story is just a few pages long.
The Library of Babel describes a universe that is literally one massive library. This library is made up of an indefinite number of hexagonal rooms. Two walls directly across from one another are entrances/exits and lead to hallways that connect the hexagons. The other four walls are lined with bookshelves with books of uniform build. Each are the same size, each contain 410 pages. Each room contains the necessities for human life, including a place to sleep and a bathroom.
You may be wondering "If every room in the library/universe is filled with books, there must be a TON of them!" Yes. In fact, the thing about this library is that it contains (take a breath) every possible combination of the alphabet. What this means is that everything that is written, or WILL BE written, is in this library.
Side note: While the number is astronomical, there is indeed a finite number of combinations of the alphabet, so the Library is not infinite.
For example, say you are looking for a Labyrinths in this library. Not only does the "correct" copy exist on one of the shelves, but an "incorrect" version containing any number of typos, false lines, or repetitions also exist. There exists a copy with one comma omitted.
Since all possible literature is written, there exists an exact account of your future out there. There also exists a ton of false accounts of your future as well. The people that live in this universe are each designated a hexagon of which they are to be the "librarian," or caretaker. When certain cults or believes arise, these people get swept up in movements that really have no effect on the actual library, since it is so massive. Gosh, the idea of this story is so awesome.
The drawing above represents one of the cult's beliefs. Some elders have claimed that there exists a circular room in this universe. The circumference of this room (the walls) act as the spine for a great book. This great book is God. I just had to illustrate that idea.
I drew someone actually stumbling upon this room. How could you get inside if the walls were the spine of the book? I put a little spiral staircase down from above.
Onto the next part of the post:
Originally I misread the cult's belief about the circular room. I envisioned a book with a circular spine, that one could hold and flip through. Since there is no end or beginning, the reading is cyclical. You could start from anywhere and keep reading indefinitely. That'd be one heck of a story, eh? I drew this book to have a stand, so you could set it down. Or press against your tum-tum, if you wanted to read on the go. It also has a handy-dandy book mark, so you'll never lose your place!
Here's a librarian who happened upon the cyclical book. Boy is HE in for a treat.
Look, I could write ten more paragraphs about all the great things in this story. But then I'd be spoiling pretty much everything for you. It's just great to think about all the things that could be found on the shelves of this universe. If you want to discuss it further, let me know. Please do yourself a favor and read the story. It's only about 6 pages or so!
Oh, let me explain the post title. This isn't a "hard read" in the sense that it was hard to finish, or understand. It's in reference to the library universe: The probability of finding what you want in a library with almost infinite books is equal to a library containing zero books.
I hope you were sitting down for that one.
The Lord of the Rings books by J.R.R "Lore-inator" Tolkien
Did you know that the wizards in the LOTR universe weren't human? They are ancient beings of the Maiar, sent by Valar to help stave the forces of darkness in Middle-Earth. The elves called them Ishtari and mankind called them I remember reading about all that some time after completing the series. And I also remember thinking "WHERE THE HECK WHERE THE OTHER LAZY JACKLEGS?" Did Gandalf have to do all the work? Well, apparently not all of the Maiar ventured out into the area that the books' setting. I suppose had Gandalf and the Fellowship failed, Sauron might have run into other wizards eventually in other lands. Radagast the Brown was the one who sent the eagle to save Gandalf at the White Tower, though Radagast didn't do jack besides that.
Anyway, the Maiar took the form of "old humans" to help them blend into the land. They were sent to guide the races of Middle-Earth. There were a few mentioned in the series, but only two were key. Gandalf The Gray and Saruman The White, whom Sauron (the big baddie) corrupts and becomes one of the man foes of the Fellowship.
Anyway, Gandalf was the dude. The illustration above is him delivering his classic line "YOU SHALL NOT PASS." Not many people know that in the book, the next line he says to the balrog is "Your ass is mine."
The Lord of the Rings books by J. R. R. "Mr. Fantasy" Tolkien
Is it just me, or do more people confuse Merry and Pippin? Don't shake your head at me, Elise! Or anyone else that loves Merry and Pippin, for that matter. Alright, maybe it's just me. Merry was the hobbit with the most knowledgeable of the four hobbits of the Fellowship, with an interest in lore and such things that for your average hobbit would be a tall order. Of the two, he's also the one I found myself cursing at the least.
"PIPPIN, LEAVE THAT PALANTIR ALONE!!!"
"PIPPIN! Why on MIDDLE-EARTH are you swearing your allegiance to Denethor???
Pippin was the youngest, so I'm sure we can just blame it on that. Young people, tssk tssk.
And yet, without a bit of carelessness and mischievousness, things might have turned out a whole lot worse. For example, Faramir was saved because of Pippin being so close to Denethor.
And plus, they became exceptionally hobbit-tall once they drank the Entwine! That's got to count for something, eh?
About the illustration:
Here are Merry and Pippin plotting to do something thoughtless that will annoy Burt very much. Hahaha.
The Lord of the Rings books by J.R.R. "Fantasy Dude" Tolkien
Continuing with the Fellowship illustrations, here are Sam and Frodo, as I remember them.
Look, I'll just say it. I wasn't a big fan of any of the hobbits. I mean, sure, they prove that size and stature doesn't matter, and that you can still stab big things in the feet if necessary, but come on. Come on, seriously. FOUR of them? How about two? Two would have sufficed, right? Well I guess since they are Halflings, the four of them combined would make two normal-sized characters. Why do I dislike the hobbits so much?
Don't even get me started on Merry and Pippin. Well, you won't have to get me started, because they're up next on the list.
Anyways, Sam & Frodo. Best half-buds. Sam stuck by Frodo through thick and thinner, low times and lower times. Through breakfast and second breakfast. Sam is essentially the heart of the LOTR books. He'd do anything for Frodo, and is one of the few characters who had possession of the Ring at one time and voluntarily gave it up. Morals are practically bursting out of this guy. Who could say that Halflings are half-hearted?
Frodo is pretty much the LOTR punching bag.
But he's also Bilbo Baggins' adoptive heir, and was trusted with the task of tossing a little ol' ring into a murderous demon volcano in Mordor, which was also the home of a big ol' bad guy: Sauron. So, in summary: Little dude with a big job.
This booksketch shows Sam piggybacking agony-stricken Frodo, whom Tolkien had just tossed into the frying for the eleventh or so time.