Chilling, thoughtful, immensely skillful, and tremendously entertaining, while Dangerous Liaisons may have imitators, in its razor-sharp wit, its icilChilling, thoughtful, immensely skillful, and tremendously entertaining, while Dangerous Liaisons may have imitators, in its razor-sharp wit, its icily precise characterization, and its elevation of the epistolary novel to not only a gorgeous literary art form but also a brilliant distillation of character and theme, it is in a genre unto itself.
Ironically written mere years before the French Revolution, Dangerous Liaisons intelligently and with startling sympathy portrays the apathy and cruelty borne of leisure among the wealthy classes. Written entirely in letters exchanged between the characters, it tells the story of the cruel and witty rake, the Vicomte de Valmont, and his sometimes lover and always confidante, the deft manipulator, the Marquise de Merteuil, possibly one of the most fascinating characters in literature. Deprived of purpose in life by their wealth and exploiting the hypocrisy around them for their own cruel purposes, the two of them treat love and sex like a brutal chess game in which both of them are determined to always emerge the winner. When the Marquise forms a plan to revenge herself on a former lover and the Vicomte sets his sights on a virtuous young wife, Madame de Tourvel, the Marquise and the Vicomte form a playful bargain. It is only when the Vicomte's emotions and the Marquise's independence become at stake that the delicate world of deception the two of them have formed for themselves threatens to come crashing down upon them.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Appreciable on several different levels, it is a devastating delight....more
This third book in Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles is my personal favorite in the series, mainly because it includes plot tropes which are particThis third book in Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles is my personal favorite in the series, mainly because it includes plot tropes which are particularly dear to my heart, and the sorceress Achren, my favorite character in the series, returns after a book long absence. But even without such subjective reasons, I do believe that I would love this book. It is charming and delightful without sacrificing any emotional realism, and the climax is simply fascinating, in a 'disturbing young adult fantasy' manner. Very highly recommended, but read the first two books first....more
An indispensably useful edition for fans of Dracula. While Leonard Wolf's annotations are sometimes self indulgent and silly (yes, it could be true thAn indispensably useful edition for fans of Dracula. While Leonard Wolf's annotations are sometimes self indulgent and silly (yes, it could be true that the progeny of the Devil would have a gestation period of thirteen months rather than the human nine, making the birth of Quincey Harker thirteen months after Count Dracula's blood exchange with Mina Harker evidence that Quincey Harker is actually the son of Dracula, i.e., the devil, but...it's probably not), rather more frequently they provide tremendously useful historical and geographic context, making them a true blessing for the fan fiction writer committed to accuracy. The appendix of films and plays based on the novel is an inspired edition, and the inclusion of Stoker's 'deleted chapter' "Dracula's Guest" saves one the trouble of having to buy a separate collection for the (admittedly rather uninspired) short story. My copy is falling apart....more
I had read this book once before. I must have been about ten years old; I owned and loved The Steerswoman's Road, and borrowed this third book in theI had read this book once before. I must have been about ten years old; I owned and loved The Steerswoman's Road, and borrowed this third book in the series from the library. For some reason, it made little impression on me. I remembered the emotional contours of the story - the tension and nostalgia between Rowan and Janus, the warmth of Steffie's arc, the steadily building frustration (very much like that of The Outskirter's Secret) and then the dramatic upset of the ending. But I remembered it as artificial, inferior to the previous two books.
I have no idea how I could have thought that of this book. I must have been too young for it.
Kirstein's narrative skill astonishes me; I don't think I know any other author who can grip my attention in this very particular way, lead me so effectively down the path of her story. She does reveals and revelations amazingly well - I think this is largely because these novels are, at their core, so much about the process of discovery itself, and her reveals engage the reader equally on an emotional and intellectual level. I knew this before today - I've read The Steerswoman's Road over and over and over, dissecting its craft with as much fascination and excitement as Rowan has when she dissects the unfamiliar creatures and objects she encounters. But rereading The Lost Steersman for the first time in many years, I was completely and entirely absorbed.
And the last section...the last section hit me so hard that I felt winded, closing the book.
(view spoiler)[I know that I resisted Kirstein's lead strongly, which I think is partly why I had such a spotty recollection of the novel's final section. I wanted the story she promised us - I wanted the rich, delicious interpersonal dynamics between Rowan and Janus and Zenna to be explored, I wanted a confrontation with Slado, I wanted ends to be tied up and the story to have an elegant conclusion. I remembered from my first, decade-old reading that I would not get that, but my expectations blinded me to the story that she was telling, though in retrospect it is the most symmetrical and gorgeous thing.
I kept debating whether or not the resemblance of Janus to Fletcher troubled me - I was somewhat, though not entirely, mollified when Rowan herself commented upon it, and then the ending inverted Fletcher's storyline brilliantly. Because Rowan, like the readers, sees the resemblance between Fletcher and Janus and is misled by it, misunderstands what sort of story she is in. And, through her misunderstanding, she partly turns Janus into Fletcher (at least if her assumption of what he has left to do at the end of the novel is correct), and allows him to use false narratives from the previous novels to hoodwink her friends. Which is an incredible choice on Kirstein's part, if so, so manipulative.
The things that these books have to say about colonialism are absolutely staggering, and I do not entirely know what to do with them.
I don't really want to talk about it in terms of genre, as fantasy or science fiction, because ultimately that does not matter. These are stories about communication, about language in all its forms, and that is their essence.
I don't think I know any book that takes such intense, continuous, and variegated delight in the very idea of words, knowledge, learning, as these do. (hide spoiler)]
I am so much looking forward to finally reading The Language of Power, I cannot even say.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The experience of reading Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence felt to me uniquely decadent and self-indulgent. This sensuous, intricate novelThe experience of reading Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence felt to me uniquely decadent and self-indulgent. This sensuous, intricate novel, formulated of as many stories within stories as The Arabian Nights, follows Rushdie’s accustomed habit of writing within no yet defined genre (try calling such a deeply allegorical and yet profoundly honest novel as Midnight’s Children by the simplistic name of ‘magical realism’), but, in contrast to the tight control of his more critically acclaimed works, The Enchantress of Florence feels as though someone unlocked the door to Rushdie’s formidable powers as a prose stylist and creator of myth, gave him a time and place in history, and let the inexhaustible wealth of his writing abilities shape themselves by chance and fate into a dizzyingly sumptuous oriental carpet of a novel.
The result is a dreamlike book of flesh and thought, Italy and India, storytelling, honesty, and lies. It is an unequivocally delight to read, but, in reading it, one must submit to its Fellini-esque ambiguous definition of realism, and its idiosyncratic narrative structure. For the meticulous reader, to attempt to follow a single character or plotline is to condemn oneself to madness, for characters and plotlines appear, disappear, and reappear with remarkable fluidity, like single threads in the pattern of a carpet. But, in this novel, each character and gem of a plotline is more fascinating than the last, and Rushdie’s admirable magic as a storyteller means that submitting oneself unequivocally to his command of story is not a difficult task to accomplish.
The plot, which deftly weaves together history and fiction in a web that draws in such historical figures as Niccoló Machiavelli, Amerigo Vespucci, Vlad Tepes and Queen Elizabeth I, is ostensibly concerned with the arrival in the Mughal court of a mysterious Italian traveler who calls himself Mogor dell’Amore, but within the Mogor’s search for his own identity in the palace of Akbar the Great are the stories of a multitude of other characters. The question of how much of each of these stories has been fabricated by the teller is left to the imagination, but the answer could be anything in the world of the novel, where an emperor can bring a woman into being by dreaming her.
While unlike any other book I have ever read, even by Rushdie, The Enchantress of Florence does owe a great deal to Italo Calvino’s slim and lyrical book Invisible Cities, which is about a series of imagined conversations between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan. Both books are concerned with Rushdie’s favorite theme of interaction between the East and the West, but the rich humanity and shifting identities of the characters in The Enchantress of Florence blur the lines in that familiar scenario, leading to a richer and more nuanced book than, say, Rushdie’s Fury. By continuing to write about India but moving away from his habitual modern setting, Rushdie allows himself to find new ways to look at a subject that many would assume he has already talked to death. Throughout the book, one has a sense of an incredibly talented writer at once challenging himself and having an incredible amount of fun. It is utterly glorious to watch.
The Enchantress of Florence is a book that I expect would greatly irritate those not so enamored with Rushdie’s prose as I am. Being a book about storytelling, it has the same sense of self-indulgence that many complain of in plays about actors. But for me, the joyous ecstasy of the writing, the truth in the characters, and the intricacy of the themes were together impossible to resist. I would recommend it to anyone who reads Henry James’ travel essays and sighs at their descriptions, who marvels at Tom Stoppard’s ability to pick out cross sections in history, or who loves the chapter titles in Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler. This book felt like a love letter to us. ...more