Friday, June 5, 2009

WHY ME? Bestselling fantasy author David Eddings died on Tuesday. I've been sitting on this news for a couple of days, but today seemed like the right day to post about Eddings.

I first read The Belgariad* and The Malloreon one summer in college. I'm not sure how I happened upon them initially -- I was a sometimes kind of fantasy reader, Anne McCaffrey and the like, but not much more than that. I blew through all ten books over the course of a couple of weeks, sprawled on the bed of my summer sublet after work. (I think it might have been Enchanters' End Game that I made the mistake of pulling out during my lunch break one day -- fortunately, I was working by myself that afternoon, so no one noticed that my lunch hour accidentally turned out to be my lunch third-of-a-day. Oops.) I don't remember any of my friends having read them; they were just kind of my own special thing until I got to be friends in law school with a guy named Mr. Cosmopolitan, who to my surprise had read all of Eddings' books many times over. The first present I ever gave my future husband was a hardcover copy of Belgarath the Sorcerer, shortly after it was published. And so today -- our 10th wedding anniversary -- felt like as good a day as any to talk about David Eddings.

* This is where to start: The Belgariad, then The Malloreon, then Belgarath, then Polgara, then The Rivan Codex if you're really interested. The Elenium and The Tamuli are good, too. Everything else is pretty much garbage, but that's 19 non-garbagey books for your summer reading list.
Given that Mr. Cosmo's knowledge of the Eddingsverse is way more impressive than my own, I asked him to chime in:

I grew up with Eddings as my fantasy touchstone, reading his first three books in about two weeks, and then waiting agonizing months or years for the next installment. But as I read more (and more varied) fantasy, I always came back to Eddings before starting off on a new series.

Eddings took his craft seriously, but never himself. He understood that good fantasy is derived from medieval legend, and could cite chapter and verse for every ancient concept that found its way into his books. At the same time, he often reiterated that one of the keys to fantasy was having a “really good Magical Thingamajig.” He was also adept at striking the delicate balance between the heroic exploits that are the heart of the genre and the everyday aspects of life so often overlooked in fantasy writing.

One of the greatest testaments to his work is the startling number of people who have not only read him, but who are willing to admit to having read him. At least among a certain age group, it was okay to talk about having read Tolkien, but you never really knew how someone else would react to the revelation that you had a bookshelf full of Anne McCaffrey, Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, Ursula K. Le Guin, or Margaret Weis/Tracy Hickman (Dragonlance). Even looking back with twenty years’ perspective, I have never met anyone who was embarrassed to have read Eddings in their youth, or wasn’t happy to discuss the books even as an adult.

As I write this, our mangled copy of Pawn of Prophecy is sitting on my nightstand, awaiting yet another re-read. My husband could probably just quote the whole damn thing at you. ("The first thing the boy Garion remembered was the kitchen at Faldor's farm . . . . [And so] the three friends started down from the snowy hilltop to view that miracle, which, though it is most commonplace, is a miracle nonetheless.")

David Eddings will be missed.

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