Across the Nightingale Floor

Across the Nightingale Floor

One of the things I love about reading is being able to draw connections between the story I just finished and a conversation I'm having with a friend, or some other book I just read, no matter how different the two may seem. Whether it's Tufte's Visual Display of Quantitative Information and getting people to go to church, or the asides of Don Quixote and the Tale of Genji, it's all connected. Or, as Thomas Foster says in How to Read LIterature like a Professor, it's all one story:

"We – as readers or writers, tellers or listeners – understand each other, we share knowledge of the structures of our myths, we comprehend the logic of symbols, largely because we have access to the same swirl of story. We have only to reach out into the air and pluck a piece of it" (192).

Across the Nightingale Floor and C.S. Lewis' essay "On Stories" is yet another example. In this essay, Lewis emphasizes that what makes a story great isn't as simple as a sense of danger or excitement, or not knowing what will happen next. Instead, it is all the elements of that story, combined in their own unique way, that are important.

Thus, if a story is good, you can't simply replace one exciting element with another (for example, having your life threatened by pirates being replaced by having your life threatened by regular robbers) because the new element doesn't contain all the implications and history of the original. In the case of our example, even though you could just as easily die at the hands of regular robbers, they don't bring to the table all the components of a pirate attack (namely, parrots).

So why am I talking about pirates when Across the Nightingale Floor is about a young boy's journey of revenge in a world full of ninjas and samurai? Because if it weren't for Lewis' insight into this aspect of Story, I don't think I would have realized what makes Across the Nightingale Floor such a good book. I would have still enjoyed it, because it is good, but my recommendation would not have been any more sophisticated than "This book was good. I don't know why, but there's just something so much fun about reading it. I can't wait to pick up the sequel." There's nothing wrong with a reaction like that, but it certainly wouldn't give a very compelling reason why you should read it.

I don't want to ruin any of the specific moments, but my full database entry has them if you want the details. In general, though, Across the Nightingale Floor is great because of the personal reaction we have to a world full of Samurais, Ninjas, revenge, faith, compassion, loyalty, and just a little bit of magic. Combined, these elements create a Story that is far more than the individual moments that make it up. If you are a fan of Story, this is definitely a book for you.


Charlie on 09/24/2010 4:49 a.m.

I adore this book, it's one of my all-time favourites. I know for the most part why I like it, but I can understand why you may not have understood why it was good without reading something else - which makes me intrigued to read the Lewis!

Erin Leigh
Erin Leigh on 09/24/2010 4:20 p.m.

Hmm, very interesting. I like that Lewis's essay made you notice more of the story so to speak. Partially the reason I miss taking Lit classes so much. There is always some<i>thing</i> about many stories I feel I'm missing because I tend to lack depth when I read. It's great you were able to find that <i>thing</i> in <I>Nightingale Floor</i>.

Erin Leigh
Erin Leigh on 09/24/2010 4:21 p.m.

Also, I'm a geek. Are you going to do NaNoWriMo this year too? I was thinking about it, but my inspiration is just not here these days.

Scott on 09/24/2010 7:07 p.m.

Glad to hear from someone else who enjoyed the book, thanks for commenting! Have you read the rest of the series - is it just as good?

If you haven't read anything by Lewis (or nothing other than <i>The Chronicles of Narnia</i>) I highly recommend him. It's amazing how versatile he is.

Scott on 09/24/2010 7:08 p.m.

I never took any Lit classes in college (my background is biology and philosophy), but I'm really enjoying opportunities to engage the subject now.

Scott on 09/24/2010 7:10 p.m.

I sure am, and I think you should definitely do it as well. I'm actually going to post more about it as it gets closer, but if you want a list of reasons to join me, I'll be happy to oblige!

Charlie on 09/27/2010 12:16 p.m.

I read half of Grass For His Pillow but stopped for a while. Bad idea, I've not got back to it since. What I read was good.

I have The Great Divorce on my TBR pile which I'm looking forward to!

Scott on 09/27/2010 2:22 p.m.

I have it on request from the library - I'll let you know how it is once they get it in.

I just got <i>Till We Have Faces</i> which is the only fiction by Lewis I haven't read yet. I've only heard great things about it so I'm really excited.

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