Tuesday 10 July 2012

Quoth the Scotsman | Lisa Tuttle on Beauty and the Book

Later this month, the fine folks behind Jo Fletcher Books are reissuing The Silver Bough by Lisa Tuttle. Originally released in the US in 2006, this lovely new edition marks the book's first publication in the UK — which is strange, because it's all about Scotland. Albeit a Scotland populated almost exclusively by Americans.

Now we have our fair share of settlers from The Other Side, sure, but the predominance of incomers in The Silver Bough struck me as oddly unsettling. Last I heard, there were still a few Scots left in the country... though you wouldn't think it from this fruit-based fairytale.

That said, the perspectives Tuttle presents in this text proffer an interesting angle on bonnie Scotland: an inversion of the unavoidable fact that when you spend any amount of time in a place, however amazing it may be, you become blasé about all it has to offer. The Silver Bough's characters, on the other hand, see Scotland for what it is: a space almost outside of time.
"The road leveled out, but then, almost immediately, it began winding downward in a long, slow descent. [Ashley] looked down at a mountainside covered in dark green pines like a pelt of thick fur, and up at a glittering, roaring cascade of water that tumbled steeply down over rocks. There were no buildings anywhere. It was all wilderness, with nothing man-made in sight but the long and winding road. 

"Except for the traffic, there was nothing to fix you to a particular era. The scene was magically timeless. Wander off across that rocky meadow, or into the shelter of that dark forest, far enough to lose the sight and sound of the road, and you might find yourself in another century, meeting some hunky, shaggy, kilted Highlander..." (p.18)
Other than the idea of wild Highlanders, Tuttle hits the nail on the head here, and later, she touches on another of my lifelong loves.

Can you tell what it is yet? :P
"She loved the look, the heft, the weight, the smell and the fact of books — all those miniature embodiments of other lives, other times. Thoughts and dreams preserved for posterity to be summoned back to life through the act of reading. The buzz these days was all about the Internet, the world of online, digital knowledge, the necessity of being connected. But even though she accepted that the Net was not merely the waves of the future but the fact of present-day life, and did miss the access to it that she'd taken for granted in her old job, on an emotional level it could not compare, for her, with the magic of an old-fashioned, printer, real book. It was that, and a childhood fantasy of being able to live in a library, which had really decided her choice of career, no matter what sensible reasons she might tell other people." (p.49)
I'll have a full review of The Silver Bough ready to post on The Speculative Scotsman shortly, but for the moment, know that it's as unassumingly lovely as it sounds... if a little slower than I might like.

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