The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars

the sun, the moon, and the stars cover

I think at a certain point, every writer has to ask himself why he writes, and what he’s hoping to do. I wrote this one to answer that question and to explore other questions about art that had been troubling me. I have mixed feelings about it—I think I did all right with it, but it is too personal to have a very wide appeal. Still, I’m glad I wrote it, and I’m always pleased to run into people who like it.

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8 Comments

  1. Over the past 20 years I have read and re-read this novel; I have given away over 20 copies of the book to friends and family, and generally find myself re-reading it when ever I have a bit of down time in my reading. This book has sparked dozens of conversations on ‘what is art’ and ‘why create’. Thank you.

  2. skzb

    Thank YOU. That is a delight to hear.

  3. I keep recommending this to my friends and I seldom find one who will read it all the way through.

    I’m starting to think that the problem is that the main character is kind of a jerk, and he notices that. It makes them uncomfortable. Worse than Samuel Delany’s Triton that way. In Triton Bron tends to carefully not notice, which is painful but not as painful.

    It’s heroicly good and moving and I wish more people would read it.

  4. I loved this book to bits and have been sad for several years because I lost my copy, well actually I loaned it out and never received it back.. beware of lending books..lesson learned. I was in the computer doing some research stumbled back onto Pamela Dean and Patricia Wrede which made me look for you:) I hope someday to replace this item and am thrilled to find out that it is even possible . sincerly K.S.Walkowicz

  5. [Please note: the source file for the following information is an old Microsoft Word for Windows 2000 doc. Expect the upload process through this site’s HTML bulk conversion filter to result in significant loss of formatting in the title block and in the use of italics (plus one strike-through and a pair of superscripts) throughout the body text. Those formatting issues aside, the doc excerpt should be as readable as it ever was….]

    EVERY PICTURE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS:
    The Third of Three Interwoven Versions of Brust’s Gypsy-Brothers Heroic Quest in The Sun, the Moon, & the Stars
    (AKA, for science geeks, the ontogeny-recapitulates-phylogeny-themed version.)

    According to Brust père’s afterword on folk beliefs, one of the tricks with Hungarian folktales is “to conform quite rigidly to the genre’s long-established structure, though within this framework [the storyteller]…is permitted, indeed expected, to unfold his narrative with all the ingenuity at his command.” Biggest Clue in the whole book. So, naturally, Brust fils stuck it away where only the most dedicated (or suspicious) readers would find it; his storytelling-ingenuity motto might as well be “Unfolding Is For Wusses.” Forget the painting metaphor, too. SM&S is a verbal tapestry, woven on a loom built to the specs of Hungarian torture folklore tradition. The hidden third layer of that weave is defined by—and revealed through—the pattern-making permutations and combinations of predetermined warp threads and diabolical weft magic. Patterns everywhere. A headbanging laugh riot of rigidly structured Gypsy-storytelling anarchy for any reader bloody-minded enough to try matching wits with the author.

    Seventeen chapters form the basic pattern framework. (Same as in Brust’s five earlier books. Except, four of those are part of an alternate-universe series in which “17” is an Empire-founding magic number. Is there some Brustian-veiled significance to its use here? Apart from messing with readers’ heads, that is.) Each chapter is broken into six segments, invariably introduced with the title of a painting. The fifth segment is always Greg’s latest three-Gypsy-brothers folktale installment, the most obvious version of the book’s Heroic Quest theme. The remaining five are more or less rigidly structured around other narrative elements. Segment 3, for example, advances the ongoing quest for artistic recognition shared by the five if-not-Gypsy-then-at-least-bohemian-to-varying-degrees brothers-in-every-way-that-counts-and-to-hell-with-gender-limited-labels studiomates. Followed by Segment 4, focusing—like a magnified detail of the broader tapestry—on the “birth” of The Death of Uranus. And so on.

    But why six segments? That’s where 102 paintings, the 3rd narrative, and ontogeny-recapitulates-phylogeny figure in, and it all becomes clear in Chapter 17. Six modern artworks: one for the Gypsy folktale and one painted straight from the gypsy soul of each studiomate. Greg’s Death of Uranus heads Segment 6, with the 5th-segment folktale break marking his role as narrator. One of the gang, yet standing somewhat apart for purposes of observation. Artist IDs for 17.1-17.4 fall in line exactly as alert readers ought to be expecting, because, long before those last six paintings, there are hints of what Brust is up to. Not just in the steady progression of art history and its ever-expanding web of influences (hell, that takes look-outside-the-book labor for most of us to spot), but in the specific works he’s chosen to open each segment of every chapter. Some of those titles should raise hang-on-a-second eyebrows for any word-gamer, art nerd or otherwise. Consider segment-header 1.6 and Greg’s musings right below it. Coincidence? Feh. By mid-book, it’s a safe bet that the emerging pattern holds true for the entire collection: on closer study, something about the title, image, or artist of each painting will be reflected in one of the studiomates as well. Equally safe side bet that Brust’s command of storytelling ingenuity doesn’t end there. Patterns and more patterns. Interlocking, contiguous, concentric. Eccentric. With several rounds of world-class numbers-gaming thrown in for good measure—keep a cardsharp’s counting eye on the patterns in those folktale segments.

  6. I just finished reading this book and I think it’s one of my favorites, if not my favorite of your works. The characters are great–flawed and human and real–and so much of the story is true to life that there’s a lot to connect to. The intermittent folktale was especially pleasing, as it reminded me of the fairy tales and folk stories I read as a child, and I loved how it was sewn into Greg’s narrative. I really enjoyed this book; thanks for writing it.

  7. That’s really nice to hear; thanks kindly.

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