Today appears to be an ordinary day, yet from an imaginative perspective it is a colossal day. Today I finished reading the last book of a long series of highly detailed landscape fantasies: The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson who took over when Jordan died in 2007). It was only in this fourteenth book that the finale was shaped into that what has been awaited by me and many other fans for over 22 years.
Imagine that! Reading a series for 22 years. Fourteen books that have been spaced apart at an average of eighteen months. As a slow and deeply engaged reader I probably spent three months of reading each book, knowing that I had to wait for more than a year before the next volume would be printed. So even though I always bought first edition copies, I still had to wait and anticipate the continuation of the plot for at least fifteen months each year. In total I have spent 42 (14 x 3) months being absorbed into a world to allow an extraordinary intimacy. To become engaged in the landscapes, the characters and the many narrative phenomena for about three and a half year – which is about the exact time of the development of the plot in the whole series; and at the same time to wait in anticipation for the rest of the story for a much larger number of seventeen years!
Those numbers are sinking in on me and they display an unprecedented imaginative involvement. The experience of reading these books is partly captured by this extraordinary time-shift. Never have I been involved with such a detailed apprehension over such a long stretch of time. Is this comparable to a meditative state of being, being aware and engaged in the moment yet somehow stretched for seventeen more years? Is it comparable to the engagement of storytelling in an Aborigines type of dream experience? A dream time experience of rich detail, provoking deep wisdom and maturation? Is it like a coma that last for almost two decades?
It feels like I have been part of family history that is told at the fires at night, to bind all those present in an encompassing experience. Three months a year, in the darkest of days, for 22 years, the story is continued and yet it only involves a maturation process of the characters of three and a half years. Such a detailed analyses and extended life lesson! As if you are allowed to consider what to do, time and again, until you get it absolutely right. Thanks to the brilliant storyteller the plot of the narrative puts every detail and side character in the right position. All the pieces are dealt with and make sense. As if you are allowed to see the fabric of life patterns forming, dissolving and reforming.
The Greek rhetorician Longinus (third century) made it very clear in his “Peri Hypsous” (on the act of great elevation), that such a story can only be great and compelling when it contains a flaw. In elevation there must be something which is waiting to be perfected by the audience. The style that enables such elevation, also necessarily includes the character of the one who performs: ‘Sublimity is the echo of a great soul’ (Longinus, p. section IX). The echo together with a trained style and skill will enable to find the right conjunction to an all inclusive nature and its mysteries. Perfection is not a perfected style of art or object alone (Longinus, p. section XXXVI). It other words, Hypsous is not an aesthetic style to create a perfect object or poem, but rather a technique to include both the one who performs and the audience in the creation of something that exceeds both, to gain both imaginative and physical elevation.
There are thus three aspects needed if you plan to perform such a compelling narrative performance:
The one that performs (a great soul)
The (flawed) style by which the performance is shaped (causing elevation)
The response of the audience (transported by the impression that what is said, is one’s own idea)
The vast timespan and intensive landscape descriptions, together with the long anticipation time in between the printing of the books, allowed me to respond to the flaws of the characters in the books. If the audience does not participate in creating the depth of the soul, it does not exist. Soul is not something outside humans, it is inside them and every soul listens to a particular call. A call that can only be uttered by the person who owns the soul.
In remembrance of all the fallen and remaining characters in the books and with deepest gratitude to Jordan and Sanderson for such a great imaginative experience.
link to landscape maps of each book: