In the standard high style my blog took a three week vacation spanning from mid- July until early August. The blogger, however, had no such luck (which should be of no import to the reader).
In the few weeks that my blog was sunning itself in a happy desert island however the world has much changed. The word octopus is now synonymous with clairvoyant. Hearing someone say “She/ he is an octopus” must not lead you to think that the person speaking is abusing the person being spoken of. Only that the subject can predict the future. Of course something as earthshaking as this must have its own facebook application. So we now have the ‘Paul the Octopus predicts tomorrow’s work day for you’ application. The question is ‘do you really need an application pretending to be an octopus’ to predict that? I’m not hinting at anything there by the way.
However you definitely don’t need an octopus to predict just how good Guy Kay’s next book is going to be. No amount of good reviews are going to prepare you for a literary feast that “Under Heaven” is. But it’s not all literary- there is a veritable wealth of information and research that has gone into creating so much detail- everything from recreating a lake by the mountain haunted by the dead to the splendour of silk and jade of the royal court at Xi’an (Xinan in the book). Even the language of the book (written in short, rhythmic sentences) was carefully chosen by Kay to reflect the poetry that surrounded life at the court and the 9th dynasty of the empire. And the poems themselves are just breathtaking
Full moon is falling through the sky
Cranes fly through clouds
Wolves howl. I cannot find rest
Because I am powerless
To amend a broken world.
I am just amazed that an author can come up with something so spell binding, moving, beautiful and informative at the same time. For what did I know about Chinese history and the Tang dynasty before I read the book? NADA. But what did I know about the Tang dynasty after I finished the book? Quite a lot actually – everything from the famous poets Li Bai and Du Fu (one of whose poems inspired a lot in the book) to the An Lushan rebellion.
Like I mentioned the blog had a vacation but the blogger didn’t. Incidentally she learned quite a lot about an interesting period in history and she is happy she did.