Friday, November 23, 2007

In Memory Of Gary Jennings.

Norman Mailer, an American literary icon, passed away this week but today's post is not about him. Instead it is dedicated to a personal literary icon of mine - Gary Jennings, who passed away in 1999, something which I had belatedly found out.

Going down memory lane, I remembered browsing at a local book store some twenty years ago and chanced upon Aztec whose synopsis about the life and times of a lost civilization looks interesting enough for me to buy it. And what a find it was!

Meticulously researched and exceptionally well written, I was spell bounded by the unique prose, wit and bawdy spirit of the epic novel. The breathtaking story of the protagonist's, Dark Cloud, adventures as a warrior and traveling merchant in what the Aztecs called The One World, was a novel of heroic dimension.

Rich with memorable characters and colorful exoticism, it was an epic tale full of surprises and led me on a wonderful journey back to a time now lost. Jennings's Aztec world was filled with vivid details and written with an authenticity that is hard to matched. Over the years, Aztec is one of the few novels in my collection that I had read many times and remains one of my all time favorites.

Besides the evident amount of research Gary Jennings pours into his historical epics, he also has this special ability to imbue his protagonists and characters with an irrepressible and zany lust for life, exotic wit and roguish charm, so much so that a reader wants to identify with them.

Who can be untouched by the adventures of Dark Cloud or the loss of his wife and daughter? What about the Goth, Thorn, the protagonist in Raptor and his spell bounding narration of his tempestuous exploits through his exciting journey across Europe at the time of the Roman Empire? Or Jennings's take on Marco Polo in Journeyer? His men and women were eccentric, always roguish and unabashedly bawdy. Jennings enlivened their adventures with an energetic prose and a narrative drive that many believed unique to historical fiction.

Nearer to our times, Jennings's Spangle was another tour-de-force of fascinating circus lore set in nineteenth-century Europe, with its stolid innkeepers to drinking poets amid a continent on the brink of change and the emergence of the new nations of Italy and Germany. The journey brings us from the impoverished post-Civil War South to the decadent courts of Europe, the grim of the Russian Czar and finally to Paris under wartime siege.

To the literary world, Gary Jennings was acknowledged as a man of intellect and erudition. His novels were international best sellers, praised for their stylish prose and widely acclaimed for the years of research he put into each one. To me, he was a rare literary great that comes once in a while and I mourn the loss of such a great icon in historical literature.

Thank you very much, Gary Jennings, for the memories.

"I'm a writer. I write not only for a living, I write because I'm a writer."

* Gary Jennings other works :
- The Rope In The Jungle
- Sow The Seeds Of Hemp
- The Terrible Teague Bunch

* As Gabriel Quyth
- The Lively Lives of Crispin Mobey

*Reference :
- Gary Jennings net

*Related post :
- A Blast From The Past - My Journey With Stephen King


Alan said...

I am a huge fan of the Spangle trilogy.

My Den said...

Hi Alan,
Spangle is definitely a fantastic read, just like the rest of Jennings' works.

And if you have not read Aztec, I strongly recommend you do. It is one of those rare works of fiction that leaves readers spell-bounded.

Take care:}

Anonymous said...

I've read Aztec, Spangle and the Journeyer three times each... masterpieces all! Mr. Jennings you are sorely missed.