My Gentle Reader: Smart Readers, Part Three

My Gentle Reader: Smart Readers, Part Three

Note:  Do not read this until you’ve read the ending to Ground Manners. A Novel !

Another Note:  When the novel, as a literary genre, first gained ground in the mid-17oo’s (Fanny Burney, etc), the author often interpellated the reader (i.e., spoke directly to the reader in the novel) and referred to him as “gentle reader” hence the title of this blog.  “Gentle” at that time implied “someone of good or high breeding”.  The “novel” was very much a new way of writing at that time whence the word “novel” meaning “new” in French. It’s not that I don’t think you already know all this…it’s just that I’ve forgotten most of what most Arts students have yet to learn, and I wanted to test what’s left of my own knowledge.

To read how the conversation you’re about to read came about, go to my previous blog post, Readers Smarter Than I Am.  When a reader with a wide-ranging intelligence like Roxanne’s takes the time to comment and ask questions, you can bet that it’s a treat for the writer. More, it enlarges and refreshes my own view of the work which, after having lived with the story and the characters for three years, can become trite and stale, though the actual writing of it was indeed full of passion and fury and all those other emoticons.  Yet more, Roxanne is a breeder of Canadien horses; in fact, her website LegacyCanadians (sadly, now taken down) featured so much breed history and facts that it was essential to my research for Ground Manners  I had the pleasure of meeting Roxanne almost by accident at the recent CHHAPS 2011 Show in Maple Ridge, BC.  With so much going on, we didn’t have time to talk so I here sincerely thank Roxanne for the amazing site she produced:  it was the answer to a researcher’s prayer at the time.  Roxanne is so knowledgeable about horse husbandry, care, training, issues, and history that I was honoured that she emailed me her thoughts about GM.  My replies below are in red.

 I read your book. I wish it was longer. I hope you write more. Thank you…always a good sign when a reader doesn’t say “don’t quit your day job!”?  Several readers mentioned the brevity of the book, and especially the rush up to the quick ending.  Between us, I intended it to be much longer, but life got in the way.

What a hideous character that Volpone was.  Yes..but Rash is truly more culpable in my eyes…he knew better whereas Volpone was sick. [I have since revisited my view of Volpone as merely sick. Given what I have seen and read about the treatment of animals, women and children throughout the world, Volpone is really the standard to which we wretches now hold ourselves to.  It’s what Hannah Arendt called, “the banality of evil.”) 
Could I ask you a couple of questions about your book?    I am honoured. I have printed up your questions so I could give them careful thought.
I think I understand the significance of Volpone’s manner of death if I think of the puppy and the ball. But why did Zia and Skye have to die at the end?  I didn’t want them to die.  Oh dear. I know.  Nobody did, and I took flack for that but  think about the burden that Skye had carried all her life:  Toby even remarks that she has “battle fatigue”, but being who she is, she won’t stop, won’t give up, even says “as long as there is breath in my body.”  Metaphorically, when Zia tries to save Skye, it is Zia’s last jump which actually ends up killing Skye (the house listed to the side and the eavestrough couldn’t take Skye’s weight).  Zia, then, becomes the symbol for the heavy burden Skye has carried all her life and, in the end, that burden kills her.  No one knows what Skye said to Zia before she let go but it might have been something like, ‘I am all done in, my girl.  Finish it for me’.  Or, it might have been Zia saying, ‘you go have a nice rest, Skye I’ll take of him.’  The endless and monumental burden of horse rescue is here shown to have overcome someone even as strong and as gifted as Skye, if you know what I mean.  As for Zia’s death, Zia harboured an incorrigible hatred for, and inability to, forgive man for all that she had seen and undergone,and that, her particular burden, would have killed her by a broken heart together with losing her beloved Skye, anyway.
What is the significance of Justin’s colour? I understand the significance of Zia’s colour as revealed by the storyline and of Justin being almost totally blind, as you revealed in the end.  But there must be a significance for colour overall in the book – besides Zia’s rare genetic makeup, besides a bluejay being bright blue and to Justin being a Pinto. I wasn’t conscious of colour being significant, except in terms of the role champagne played in the storyline.  I’d really love for you to tell me what role you think colour played (the writer often doesn’t know what is embedded in his/her own text). The blind Justin, btw, is based on a blind pinto named Jasper whom I sponsored for a few years at Refuge RR:  the scene where Justin “mirrors” Zia I actually witnessed at the refuge one day.  I was speechless.  
[In a second email, Roxanne explained:]  I am not sure what colour. Maybe it was colour to me, as every reader will see something different???? The three – Toby, Zia and Justin just stood out to me like sentinels against a more austere backdrop of earth and water, trees and grass, lost and found. Black and white – maybe power and innocence, blue – loyalty, protection, yellow – intellectual, alert, personally strong.  Yes, certainly in symbolic ways, colour is always important.  It was very sharp of you to pick up on that even in ways I wouldn’t have thought of.  I really like that you saw them as “sentinels” against an austere backdrop:  that’s a brilliant interpretation of the book’s entire theme!  In Toby’s case, however, I needed a bluejay because they can mimic the cry of a hawk (which makes him the true hero of the piece to some extent), and because of the way they look (as I describe them in the book).  Also, bluejays are my favourite bird. 
Anyway, I hope you write more.
PS – Did you know that La Gorgendiere (Deschambault) had an active crossbreeding program for a few years?) They were entered in the herd books with an “A” prefix. They were kept in a separate section from the others  No, I didn’t!  See?  That’s the best part of knowing readers like you, Roxanne:  had I met you while I was researching the book, your knowledge and info would have made the historical bits 100 per cent better.  
This was fun.  Feel absolutely free to continue this conversation.
[Unfortunately, Roxanne didn’t continue; perhaps that’s all she had to say…but what she did say was remarkable.  Thank you, Roxanne, for giving Ground Manners your full attention and for sharing your sparkling insights.]

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