Electric Literature asked John Darnielle, singer/songwriter with the Mountain Goats and author of Wolf in White Van, to pick a book to talk about. And Darnielle chose The Worm Ouroboros, a 1922 fantasy novel by Eric RĂĽcker Eddison that's one of the precursors to Tolkien.

Top image: 1978 map by David Bedell.

Darnielle gives a brief synopsis of Eddison's novel:

It's a classic quest narrative—there's an evil to destroy, and four noble warriors take to the high seas and rough terrain to meet and defeat it. It all takes place on a distant planet where monsters range and magic holds sway.

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And he talks about why he bonded with fantasy novels as a young reader:

I aligned with fantasy as a young science fiction / fantasy reader—I liked the fluffy stuff. Unicorns, dragons. Space was cool but mythical creatures, magic, wizards, talking trees—that was what inspired me when I was ten, eleven, twelve years old. I put that stuff aside when I began to have Pretensions—when I became a Serious-Minded Young Man—which I don't regret, it's great to go through phases. But I'm glad as a grown-up to have come back around to magic stuff, magic is really such a wonderful idea....

Magic I think for me is kind of personal. Like, as soon as magic is in play, then I am given permission to imagine a different world, one in which magic things might happen—one where maybe I get some magic to wield if I'm lucky. Where cool stuff might happen at any given moment, cool stuff you wouldn't even guess at. And for as long as the story holds, I'm kind of living in that world.

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The whole interview is well worth reading, over at Electric Literature.


Contact the author at charliejane@io9.com.

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