Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Place, A Person, A Life In Few Words

I'm in the middle of Catherynne M. Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making right now -- or really not so much the middle as the beginning. I just read Chapter V last night, and it was such a perfect chapter that I couldn't read further.

I've read plenty of good chapters in plenty of good books over the years, and it's not at all uncommon to encounter one so good that I just have to keep reading into the next. And of course it happens much too often that a chapter is so humdrum as to leave me unwilling to put any more energy into reading further, so I set the book aside for later.

But Chapter V of this book struck me as too beautiful to disrespect by rushing on past it. Valente has a marvelous skill throughout the book of putting something deeply moving or wise on almost every page. But she outdid herself in this chapter, with a setting full of wist and heartache and grace, the introduction of a sympathetic and striking minor character, glimpses into the history of Fairyland, intimations of the challenges that our titular protagonist may have ahead of her ...

As a narrative unit, the chapter achieved a real perfection, combining mood and movement and meaning into something much larger than the narrow frame of its pages. And having read such perfection, I had to stop -- in part because I feared that the next chapter might not be as wondrous, but also in part because I did not wish to rush away from that place, which Valente painted with such finesse that it set a hook into my heart and begged me to stay.


  1. that is some title....what genre? what age group?

  2. It's marketed as a children's book. The genre is either fantasy or fairy tale. As for age group, I think it could be read to an elementary-school kid, but there are parts of it that would be wasted on anyone younger than 25 or 30.

    1. Herb! I just read somewhere that you are a comic book creator! How COOL is that!!!!!!!! Very cool, Herb! :D

      A spellbinding review you're written here! I can relate to what you're talking about. Many times if I want to stop at something to remember it just that way, I will do just that! :) It's like putting a flower inside the middle of a gigantic book!

  3. Comic books are very cool, and pretty easy to write. (Harder to write well, of course...) I haven't done any in years, though, because I've been too busy with fiction.

    I like your flower image. : )