lunes, 5 de septiembre de 2016

Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)

Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to Travelling, by James Spiteri (Spotify).

It is slightly embarrassing (OK, very embarrassing) to confess that I had not read Robert Silverberg that much. In fact, and although I own at least a dozen books written by him, I only remember having read three or maybe four of his novels, an unforgivable crime since Silverberg is such a central figure in science fiction literature. Thus, I was a little anxious when I started Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro. The book looked really interesting, but I was unsure if I was going to follow it if Silverberg's work was analyzed in detail. 

It turned out that, although obviously there are references to specific works by the author, Traveler of Worlds deals with a much wider range of topics, and Silverberg and Zinos-Amaro talk about travels, food, literature and art in general, making the book really appealing not only to SF fans but to any person interesting in artistic creation. 

The book is organized in seven chapters (plus an introduction by Gardner Dozois and an afterword by Karen Haber) roughly corresponding to "sessions" in which Zinos-Amaro very subtly and intelligently drives the conversation, leaving Silverberg to talk at length. In this way, we discover that the inspiration for many of his works comes from his frequent travels, that he has been an avid reader from his early childhood, that he loves to try different food and that he owns a really impressive library. 

Among all these interesting topics, there are two that especially captivated my attention. On the one hand, I was really shocked by how prolific Silverberg was. He mentions, for instance, that in a certain year he was able to write and publish novels, short stories and articles for a total of two million words. Two million words!!! I estimate that I read about five million words in an average year, so, wow, really, TWO MILLION WORDS!!!

On the other, I did like very much the conversations about literature, how Silverberg is very knowledgeable not only about science fiction but also about the classics, something that clearly shows in his work. In addition, his analysis of certain fragments of novels proposed by Zinos-Amaro was fascinating and I learnt quite a number of things. For instance, I've been thinking a lot about his opinion on how a story should start:
I believe in, and have always practiced, the notion that the opening page of a book should draw the reader in by generating some sense of the theme and some sense of the conflict. This is what we call the narrative hook. I don't think it's absolutely required, but it's a good idea. 
All in all, Traveler of Worlds is an extremely interesting book and has made me admire Robert Silveberg a big deal and, even more important, has made want to read many more books, not only his own, but those by writers he cites as influences (Henry Kuttner, for instance). I highly recommend these Conversations with Robert Silverberg, either if you are a hard-core fan of his work or if, as it is my case, you still have much of his novels to discover.  

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