Book: The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars

Title: The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars
Author: Steven Brust
Genre: Fiction/Folktale
Length: 210 pgs

Summary: This is technically two separate stories about two cocky young men who use their wits to get what they want. The thing is, one is a Hungarian folktale about Csucskari, a young gypsy who puts the sun, the moon, and the stars back where they belong. The other story is a contemporary first-person narrative about Greg, a student painter who dropped out of his junior year of college three years ago to work in a studio with four of his artist friends. There aren’t really chapters, just a series of vignettes, and the vignettes switch between the contemporary narrative and the folktale.

Excerpts:
pg 27 – I feel the same way about art. I want to do more than just paint a pretty picture; I want there to be some substance to it, something about life, about nature, about people. I want someone to be able to look at one of my paintings more than once; more than twice, even, and continue to find things in it. I want people to say, “Yeah, I’ve seen that, but I didn’t really notice it was like that before.” But you can’t just impose “meaning” and “significance” onto a paintin, like adding vodka to a punch. It’s either in you or it isn’t. The joke is, though, that you can’t know if it is or it isn’t unless you work at it.

pg 87 – The idea isn’t to show off how much detail you can capture, the idea is to use exactly the RIGHT details to express what you want to express, and no more. […] You need to be technically skilled enough to do anything, but then you have to know when not to.

pg 106 – Whenever I get this far into a project, it always starts to drag, on matter how excited I am. The important thing is to keep going, and, no matter how much it hurts, to take care that each stroke is applied correctly. A lot of my worst work has been done during the middle stage of a project, when I feel that, if I’m sloppy here I can make up for it later — but you can only repaint something a certain number of times before you’re going to lose some of the luster, or, if you keep wiping things off with turpentine, before you hurt the canvas itself.

Why should you read this book?
Because the voice of the first-person narrator, Greg, is pretty good. I decided I didn’t like him because he was too cocky, and that’s when I took a step back and said, “Bravo, Mr Brust! You got me to hate your character!” I have to applaud anyone who makes me feel anything for their character, especially if it’s a first-person narrative. Generally, I tend to just read and wonder what really happened, but by the end of the story I was beginning to see how the folktale narrative was tying in with the first-person narrative. It’s an interesting treatment to the stories; had they been written separately, I don’t think they would have been interesting enough to carry a book. So, read this book for a different writing treatment, for the character voice, and for a little bit of Hungarian folklore.