Belly of the Wolf – 1993





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Look at the photos up top.  You will notice that there are two titles mixed in together: Belly of the Wolf and Winter of the Wolf.  That was definitely not my idea.

The British publisher refused to use my original title.  They said the word ‘belly’ was unacceptable.  I still think that decision on their part inexplicable, as I happen to know that the word is not exactly in the naughty list in the U.K. And the phrase ‘the belly of the wolf’ was very integral to the plot of the whole series, as I used it as a metaphor for learning to clear the mind.  (I won’t repeat my whole lesson for learning meditation, or whatever a person wants to call that mental state.  It is written out in a few pages of LENS, and I am still proud of it.  It is a variation of the ‘don’t think of a pink elephant’ game we all have to confront in our schooling, or in our life.  And I don’t think anyone else has approached the job of emptying the mind of unruly thoughts in exactly that way.)

But the British publisher would not allow ‘belly’ on the cover of a book. As the book is set in what is a deadly winter, we compromised on the word ‘winter’.  It has alliteration, even though it misses the entire point. And as the series is done very much in the old British style of fantasy, as written from Dunsany and through Lewis and the rest of the Inklings, I would have hated to miss out on publishing there.

WOLF was written about thirty years after the first two.  Not thirty years later in my time but in Nazhuret’s, and his style has necessarily changed.  I find that a writer’s does over time and into age – though the age of fifty-five is not so old today as it was in his time.  And considering the eventfulness of his life (my fault, of course) you have to give him credit for surviving so long. In re-reading it, which I did last night – all night – I discovered that the words are shorter and the entire syntax more crisp.  Not lighter in tone, however.  WOLF is by no means a light book.

It drifts between the layers of the protagonist’s thoughts, and his re-evaluation of what he considers real in his experience.  Although I stated that LENS was not a work of fantasy, and one can almost say the other two have nothing approaching magic in them, the argument becomes more tenuous as the reader approaches the end of the series.  I think by the end it is not a meaningful argument at all.

Again, as in KING, I didn’t remember where I (or someone who once carried my name) was taking this book, and was actually nervous as I read, as I know this particular writer has no objections to killing off her cast.  Even the brightest and best of them.

I can’t say more than that.  Spoilers.

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