The Slow Regard of Silent Things

I am an unabashed fan of Patrick Rothfuss.  Having read his blog, followed him on various social networks, participated in his charity Worldbuilders, and watched several video interviews and his brief YouTube panel discussion program The Story Board, I can tell the man is just an all-around good man.  I adored his first novel, briefly titled The Name of the Wind, The Kingkiller Chronicles: Day One.  The second book in the series, The Wise Man’s Fear, The Kingkiller Chronicles: Day Two disappointed me, though it is still a good story.  Now Rothfuss gives us The Slow Regard of Silent Things, a novella centered on the enigmatic Auri, the young woman who lives in the Underthing, a network of passages and rooms and sewers beneath The University.  Auri is introduced in the first book of the series and is for me one of the most interesting characters in Rothfuss’s world.  When protagonist Kvothe first meets Auri in the first volume, she is timid and exhibits an almost feral behavior.  As Kvothe learns more about Auri, it becomes clear that she is a bit disturbed, off-kilter, though intelligent.  When with Auri, everything must be just so and one must observe proper manners or she will scurry away and disappear.  She is a curious character and one I’m very happy Rothfuss explored in this novella.

While reading this book, I was constantly amazed by Rothfuss’s ability to write so clearly from the perspective of a broken mind and make the pieces make sense.  After seeing her world through Auri’s inquisitive eyes, I felt like I began to understand her.  What most people would see as irrational behavior started to appear… reasonable?  No.  Not reasonable.  Not at all, but darn it, I could see what she was going through.  She’s off her rocker, but I wanted to be there.  What do most people do when they see what they perceive to be a mentally ill person in public?  Think back to the last time you were strutting down your own Main Street, mocha latte in hand, and ahead of you was one of those people – maybe they were pacing to and fro, touching the tree by the curb and then the top of the fire hydrant and then the tree and then the fire hydrant, tree, hydrant, tree, hydrant.  I think most of us avoid eye contact and accelerate, hoping they don’t try to talk to us and if they do try to talk to us, we ignore them and walk faster.  That can’t be just me.  I’m a good person.  I am!  Sigh.  Anyway, Auri is one of those people but Rothfuss makes me want to not speed past her.  I am not sure if that is empathy on my part or on the part of Patrick Rothfuss.  Probably his because he is such a talented storyteller.  But I’m still a good person.  Shut up.

I love Rothfuss’s titles.  This one, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, sounds like a Walt Whitman poem, is his best one yet.  It is a perfectly Auri title, sparking my curiosity, drawing me close and by the time the story was over, it made absolute sense to me, particularly with regard to Auri.

I initially wondered why this novella exists.  The author’s fans are clamoring for Day Three of the Chronicles.  Was Slow Regard a tease, an appetizer, a stop gap?  His own Author Foreword tells prospective buyers that they might not want the book.  He goes out of his way to dissuade folks from spending their money on it.  Rothfuss seems to worry that readers who are using Slow Regard as their introduction to him will be confused and dissatisfied with him and avoid his future work.  Personally, I think he is not giving himself his due credit.  On its own, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a quirky little story starring a quirky little character and it is quite enjoyable all on its own.  Having read the preceding novels, I had a bit of experience with Auri already so had an idea of what to expect, but I think an open-minded person reading this story in a vacuum would find the story and Auri odd and charming.  As for why the story exists at all, Rothfuss stated on his blog that it is too long to fit reasonably well within Day Three and so it made sense to release it on its own.  I’m awfully glad he made that decision and did not choose to kill this particular darling.