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How John Hodgman Learned to Love George R.R. Martin

Illustration for article titled How John Hodgman Learned to Love George R.R. Martin

Speaking to DCist, John Hodgman explains that he felt embarrassed to be reading George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire at first, but then he got over it. For good reasons:

I read the Lord of the Rings and stuff, but I really only turned to the George R.R. Martin serial because I knew there was a TV show coming out and I felt like I should know what all the hubbub was about. I was initially very embarrassed to be reading it because it wasn't a metaphor or an allegory of any kind. You know, like, there's no question that the Lord of the Rings was about war, the mechanization of England, the industrialization of England, that it was about all these other things. You could get lost in the fact that Tolkien made up all these wackadoo elvish languages. But with George R.R. Martin this is a guy that just loves fantasy and science fiction and was just writing in the form and at first I found this to be a little unseemly.

Of course he's such an amazing storyteller that I got right into it, and then it basically controlled my life. And I ended up realizing what I don't think he totally gets credit for, aside from his amazing skills as what they say in the fantasy writing game as a "world builder," as a guy who creates incredibly thoughtful, living, breathing set of cultures in an invented world, just line by line he's one of the finest writers that I've read. And particularly his sense of how to pace out a scene and surprise you with where the scene goes and what happens in it. Particularly big scenes like a wedding or a feast of some kind. And for a book that's as much about war as it is, he writes a lot in the salon and in the bedroom. And I think he's the only person I know who actually writes culinary suspense stories.

There's so much food writing in those books, which I can only presume is based on at least some research of the weird lampreys and duck thighs that people ate around the time of the War of the Roses, but it brings such life to those books and then the things that happen over meals are sometimes the most important. Huge feastings that are incredibly skillfully paced out in a way that from a writerly point of view I found absolutely astonishing.


Top image: Art by Roman Papsuev.

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Yankton, née Spacemonkey Mafia

I'm currently right in the middle of book 5. The missus and I had a debate concerning whether or not these books are literature. I read much more fantasy and science fiction than she, but we both sort of agreed it's not. Literature being, by our tentatively agreed upon terms, having subtext.

But that by no means diminishes what Martin has done, and is in no small way a significant reason why I get such satisfaction from his books. He infuses the smallest, offhand character with dimension I don't see often enough in other novelists major characters. Everything is just so tactile.

I love the food descriptions as well.