I hope you'll indulge me for a moment - I'm going to start this post with an excerpt from the book The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. This is a top notch book by a very skilled writer. Let me set it up a bit, so the scene makes sense:
Kvothe is the hero and the central figure in the tale. He is an adult, relaying the tale of his life to a historian, so the scene is written in the first person. At this point in his retelling, Kvothe is 15. Three years earlier, he was living happily with his parents as part of a traveling group of actors/performers. But he suffered a tremendous tragedy that stripped him of everything and everyone he knew, and he has spent the past three years living as a beggar in the Waterside section of a big city called Tarbean - it has been a very difficult existence for him. But he has left the city, a couple of days before, and is tagging along with a group of merchants traveling via wagon to another big city, where he has hopes of getting into the University there.
As a child, he was incomparably precocious , and among his many talents, he had learned to play the lute well at a very early age. But it has been three years since last he played. And here, around a nightime campfire, another member of the caravan, a singer named Josn, has just entertained the group with his (mediocre) lute playing and was putting the instrument away when Kvothe asked if he could see it for a moment...
I can honestly say that I was still not really myself. I was only four days away from living on the streets. I was not the same person I had been back in the days of the troupe, but neither was I yet the person you hear about in the stories. I had changed because of Tarbean. I had learned many things it would have been easier to live without.
But sitting beside the fire, bending over the lute, I felt the hard, unpleasant parts of myself that I had gained in Tarbean crack. Like a clay mold around a now-cool piece of iron they fell away, leaving something clean and hard behind.
I sounded the strings, one at a time. When I hit the third it was ever so slightly off and I gave one of the tuning pegs a minute adjustment without thinking.
"Here now, don't go touching those," Josn tried to sound casual, "you'll turn it from true." But I didn't really hear him. The singer and all the rest couldn't have been farther away from me if they had been at the bottom of the Centhe Sea.
I touched the last string and tuned it too, ever so slightly. I made a simple chord and strummed it. It rang soft and true. I moved a finger and the chord went minor in a way that always sounded to me as if the lute were saying sad. I moved my hands again and the lute made two chords whispering against each other. Then, without realizing what I was doing, I began to play.
The strings felt strange against my fingers, like reunited friends who have forgotten what they have in common. I played soft and slow, sending notes no farther than the circle of our firelight. Fingers and strings made a careful conversation, as if their dance described the lines of an infatuation.
Then I felt something inside me break and music began to pour out into the quiet. My fingers danced; intricate and quick they spun something gossamer and tremulous into the circle of light our fire had made. The music moved like a spiderweb stirred by a gentle breath, it changed like a leaf twisting as it falls to the ground, and it felt like three years Waterside in Tarbean, with a hollowness inside you and hands that ached from the bitter cold.
I don't know how long I played. It could have been ten minutes or an hour. But my hands weren't used to the strain. They slipped and the music fell to pieces like a dream on waking.
I looked up to see everyone perfectly motionless, their faces ranging from shock to amazement. Then, as if my gaze had broken some spell, everyone stirred. Roent shifted in his seat. The two mercenaries turned and raised eyebrows at each other. Derrik looked at me as if he had never seen me before. Reta remained frozen, her hand held in front of her mouth. Denna lowered her face into her hands and began to cry in quiet, hopeless sobs.
Josn simply stood. His face was stricken and bloodless as if he had been stabbed.
I held out the lute, not knowing whether to thank him or apologize. He took it numbly. After a moment, unable to think of anything to say, I left them sitting by the fire and walked toward the wagons.
I doubt it has the same power that it would had you read the 200 or so pages of book before this passage, but still, I think it's wonderful and powerful, and when I read it the other night, I was moved.
Ah, nothing like a good book!
But a close second is a good movie!
Tonight's episode of These Are A Few of My Favorite Scenes is brought to you by Dave. Surprise, eh? It's a scene from one of my top 10 movies of all time, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Captain Jack and Barbosa are both such terrific characters, brilliantly acted. Orlando and Kiera both served their roles well enough, as did Norington and the rest. Wonderful dialog. Great script. Anyway, here's the swordfight in the Blacksmith's shop.
A pretty uneventful Sunday today. Pastor pontificated again today about the evils of video games. I respectfully disagree. Ate lunch at the mall. Watched some of the Super Bowl (what a play that 100 yard interception return was!). Got some work dregs done. Got Crown Stealer back from Vye (which I'll set up tomorrow). And now, to blog, to read and to bed.
Until tomorrow, clothes, but no cigar.