The War of the Encyclopaedists: A Chapter 15 review

I’m currently reviewing chapters of War of the Encyclopaedists by Gavin Kovite and Christopher Robinson. As a Dune novel it’s pretty awful. This is pretty great reading material if you want to start writing fantasy novels. I feel like I’m learning a lot about the craft of writing just by obsessively pouring over these chapters.

Look forward to my own upcoming novel tentatively titled Queen of Swords, Jack of Daggers, Ace of Edges.

Chapter 15 is a Bostonian episode about Corderoy.

Corderoy is pretty enthralled by the sorceress, Sylvie. It runs out she has cystic fibrosis and Crohn’s Disease which is like a pretty terrible combination of things to have, and that’s why she’s been incommunicado for so long.

This revelation didn’t scare Corderoy off; paradoxically, it knocked him into a spiral of infatuation, a fact which may seem incommensurate with reality, but when the threads of circumstance that led to it are traced back sufficiently far, its inevitability is apparent.

Basically, Sylvie is not a Bostonian academic person, and…

The most distant circumstance, though also the most profound: the image of Mani in traction, in a hospital room on July 3rd, unconscious, moments from abandonment by her de facto boyfriend, soon to awake in a city suddenly cold and alien, absent of a single friend.

There’s this online woman, who is in to ghost hunting, who seems to be quite vocative of Corderoy’s theorized ghost girlfriend. Again, just me reading into things.

Sylvie is in to boxers, funfetti cupcakes, and ghost hunting. Turnoffs: briefs, grammar, spelling.

She was practically throwing herself at him. And for a moment, he was tempted to disbelieve the illusion. But luck, both good and bad, was all about relative perception. In the grand scheme of things, he reminded himself, the universe was indifferent to our fortunes.

The casual nihilism of the characters!

Corderoy takes off like a man on a quest. First he has to explain why he feels briefs are superior to boxer shorts, then tie that to an experience involving an unfortunate erection and a fellow student. But he’s obviously will to abandon any stance on underwear (though he seemed oddly ok with dirty underwear) given that there’s a 19 year-old girl out there who wants to cuddle.

Since there’s a week between meetings, Corderoy does homework on Ulysses. Does he have other classes? I’m just curious because it seems like Ulysses is the only thing he really seems to be working on.

In the last week, he had slowly regained that sense of expansiveness he’d felt at the end of the novel. But it was changed now; he didn’t so much feel it as know it, and the fact that it wasn’t joy, or anger, or release, or self-deception, that it was somehow none of these and all of these, the fact that it was a force without direction became glaringly obvious.

I still think Corderoy is just depressed.

So he tallies up the uses of the words “yes”, “no”, “every”, “all,” “not”, and “didn’t”. Then used that data to analyze the text. It’s a pretty good idea actually, I’m a little sad that more of it wasn’t in the book.

Molly Bloom’s connection with her husband–the subject of much of her thoughts in the final pages–was deep and important, but far from simple or purely loving. That final yes, if anything, was an acceptance of the complexity of love, that it always contained strands and flecks of its opposite.

I can’t imagine a love more complicated than the phantom projection of a woman to embody the possibly platonic (brotonic?) relationship you have with your old college buddy.

Corderoy orders a pizza. Because he’s powered up on Ulysses he basically gets the best of Tricia again, though I’m not sure why since I think Tricia is better at this kind of thing, but maybe it’s because she’s hungry.

He noticed Tricia eyeing the steaming pie. “Help yourself.”

“You know Domino’s is owned by a right-wing, anti-abortion nut job.”*

“Does that make it undelicious?” Corderoy said.

“Lots of things are delicious.”

“Yeah, but this is right here in front of you.” Corderoy took a big bite, cheese stretching off the pizza and dripping into the cardboard below him.

SPOILER: she eats some pizza.

Also the footnote is that that Tricia has her facts wrong regarding Domino’s Pizza.

“I’ll leave this out here, in case you change your mind.” He nodded toward the pizza. “Know your enemy?”

Two things are weird about this: one, who only eats one piece of pizza and then leaves the room? And two, why the Sun-Tzu? Who is Tricia’s enemy?

This is why I think the book has remnants of Tricia as an antagonist because she eats the pizza and feels guilty about it, which seems to highlight that Corderoy’s casual nihilism is superior to her principle-ism.


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