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The Bread We Eat in Dreams

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  776 ratings  ·  128 reviews
Subterranean Press proudly presents a major new collection by one of the brightest stars in the literary firmament. Catherynne M. Valente, the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and other acclaimed novels, now brings readers a treasure trove of stories and poems in The Bread We Eat in Dreams.

In the Locus
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published December 31st 2013 by Subterranean Press (first published November 2013)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  776 ratings  ·  128 reviews

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Long ago, in a far-off mythical land, I discovered that Cat Valente is brilliant. Not only brilliant, but I love everything she's ever written and it DOESN'T BOTHER ME IN THE SLIGHTEST if I am forced to read quite a few stories that were published in other collections.


That's the strength of these stories. They're all brilliant no matter how many times you read them and it still feels fresh every single time. I'm not used to that. If it was any other author I might get a sinking feeling and
Apr 27, 2016 rated it liked it
If you’re a fan of Catherynne M. Valente’s work, then you probably know what to expect: prose that touches poetry at times, often an influence of Japanese folklore, strange dream-like logic… This is a wide-ranging collection which includes some stories I read elsewhere, or could’ve read elsewhere, like the Fairyland novella about Mallow. The writing is generally beautiful; that’s never really something I doubt with Valente. The choice of stories is also generally good, even though I have encount ...more
I love this collection. I love how Valente consistently delivers the most gorgeous prose to be found in the genre. I love how she avoids using myth and folklore as mere tools, but instead incorporates them as naturally as breathing, bringing all their layers of meaning into play without diminishing their power. She seems to be able to do everything: fairytale, far-future SF, contemporary fantasy, bleak dystopia, poetry. Add to this a lovely cover and wonderfully appropriate interior illustration ...more
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"Finally, she said: "I'm lonely," because it's weird but you tell the wolves things, sometimes. You can't help it, all these old wounds come open and suddenly you're confessing to a wolf who never says anything back. She said: "I'm lonely", and they ate her in the street."

I remember reading the above quote on a tumblr post and, against all my common sense, immediately laid down $50 to a small bookstore in Washington for the book in which it was written.

I have to say, I think I got the better end
There is a little bit of everything in this collection -- short stories, poems, and a novella. I really enjoyed some of the stories, loved the novella, disliked other stories, and skimmed the poems. Valente is a master at mixing myths, fantasy, and science fiction, and she was at her best in the novella called "Silently and Very Fast," which concerns artificial intelligence.

There are just too many stories and poems to comment on them all so I'll just note three (in addition to the novella) that
How do you even start to review Catherynne Valente? It's like, there are normal, good, solid books, and then there are her stories which are something like reading but more akin to letting her rummage around in your deepest desires and hold the things you want most just out of your reach.

Which is to say, of course, that I love just about everything she puts out, and The Bread We Eat in Dreams is no exception.

If you follow her work closely, you've probably already read some of the stories contai
Megan Baxter
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
When I started to read this book, just a few weeks ago, I had a mother. By the time I finished it, I didn’t have a mother anymore. I’d been orphaned at age 39 just as surely as any of the children in any of the fairy tales that Valente is riffing on, often brilliantly, in this book.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Edward Rathke
Didn't read the whole collection so I'm not going to bother rating it.

Two of the stories are utterly amazing.

Silently and Very Fast is one of the best stories I've read in a while, and the only novella in the collection. It's a mix of fairytales, posthumanism, biopunk, and post-terran journey, which is such a cool thing. For much of the story you're kind of caught up in how interesting everything is, and it's narrated by an AI, but gradually the emotions begin to pull on you and the story become
Mar 18, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm constantly praising Valente's writing, and in order for you to understand why it's bloody perfect I'll give you the opening lines of the book:

She walks into my life legs first, a long drink of water in the desert of my thirties. Her shoes are red; her eyes are green. She’s an Italian flag in occupied territory, and I fall for her like Paris.

Like ??? I'm in love? Who writes like this?

That being said, not all of the stories were amazing. Sure, the writing is incredible but most of the 35
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: uf, 2013
The Consultant: 2 stars.
White Lines on a Green Field: 3 stars.
The Bread We Eat in Dreams: 5 stars.
The Melancholy of Mechagirl: (poetry)
A Voice Like a Hole: 5 stars.
The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland—For a Little While: -
How to Raise a Minotaur: 3 stars.
The Shoot-out at the Burnt Corn Ranch Over the Bride of the World: 4 stars.
Mouse Koan: (poetry)
The Blueberry Queen of Wiscasset: 3 stars.
In the Future When All's Well: 2 stars.
Fade to White: 1 star.
Aeromaus: 1,5 star.
Red Engines: (poetry)
The Wolves of B
Fantasy Literature
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Bread We Eat in Dreamscontains thirty-five of Catherynne Valente’s short stories and novellas, caught out in the wild and arranged neatly for the paying public. Ranging from delicate, herbivorous poems to novella-sized megafauna, these creatures display the ecological diversity of the Phylum of the Fantastic and the continued resonance of the Kingdom of Myth. For gentlemen-scientists and enthusiastic students of all things speculative, Valente’s story-menagerie is worth the visit.

Aug 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anthology
I greatly enjoy Valente's writing style, not only in this anthology, but in her other masterpieces as well. Many of the stories in here were quite catching, and I enjoyed the way she played with myths and fairy tales, molding them into something new, something echoing what it is to be human now, in the past, and possibly in the future. Of course her writing is beautiful, but the content, as well as being a good story, makes you think about the world in a different way, like growing another sense ...more
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Apart from the one story (Fade to White) I didn't like, this is a tremendous short story (and poetry) collection. Includes the wonderful novella Silently and Very Fast, which I've read before and loved. Still love it. ...more
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, spec-fic
This was a really lovely book that I've been reading for the last couple weeks. The chief attraction is Valente's beautiful prose, but her incisive wit and thoughtful reflection are close seconds. The Bread We Eat in Dreams is not a collection that has a clear narrative or unified type of story, but it presents a picture of a mind deeply concerned with the ethics of social interaction and with our responsibilities to each other. These poems tend towards the humorous in a manner that is different ...more
When I read a book that has beautiful words, they always linger in my mind like an echo or a pleasant aftertaste, as if my daily thoughts aspire to be beautiful too. The short stories and poetry in this collection are such an example of beautiful words. The stories are unique, funny, and at times heartbreakingly beautiful. I rarely reread books, but this one I wouldn't mind reading again, savoring the feel of the words in my mind's mouth as I read.
Jason Vanhee
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is sadly out of print, but my local library had a copy that I borrowed on a whim. I now curse it for being OP, as I want to own it very badly but used copies even run in the 150-200 dollar range.

While there are a couple of duds in here, the majority of the stories are excellent, and some of them are frankly magnificent. The title story is marvelous. White Lines on a Green Field; a poem about Aquaman; a koan about an unnamed but obvious Mickey Mouse as a dark demiurge; the longest piece
Aug 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-on-kindle
It only took me three years.
Sarah Booth
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most wonderful fairytale type books I've ever read. The writing is divine and the stories are clever and inventive. I read a story or part of one before bed and go to sleep with a smile on my face. The analogy of history being like your auntie's elusive cat was brilliant and the insights and descriptions are such a pleasure to read and savor. You want to savor each of the stories and l actually look forward to reading them again which I never do with books! What a fabulous wri ...more
I really loved this collection. I'm coming to realize that I'm more of an anthology girl than a collection reader in general. I like the variety and I can get bogged down in collection if they aren't balanced really well. And this is a long collection, twenty stories and five poems. It looks like the limited edition printed version of the book has ten more stories that weren't in the ebook, as well. But despite the length and my inclinations, this book was great, I really enjoyed every bit of it ...more
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
There is no doubting that Valente has oodles of talent, and few authors can manipulate language and words and imagery and ideas quite the way she does. But. Yes, the but.
I often feel she tries so hard to utilize as many colors and rhymes and alliterations and imaginary beasts, too often in the same lengthy sentence, that she forgets to develop the story. I love stylistic writing of many kinds, but I read books for stories.
Tales. Fables. Journeys. Morals. Lessons. Adventures. Dreamscapes. Lives
Disappointing. | I have loved so much of Valente's work that for awhile I was practically an evangelist about it. "Have you read her? You must read her. Something of hers will fit your taste, you *must* check her out." When this was announced I put it straight on my wishlist and got it as soon as possible after release. But then I started reading it and, well, it was dull. Somewhere along the line, a few years ago, Valente got obsessed with creating beautiful writing, and stopped worrying about ...more
Amy Mills
An odd mix. There were a few I really like, a few that were interesting, and a few that just did nothing for me.

I really liked The Consultant, but its tone/topic created an expectation for the other stories, as it felt very much like an intro. The expectation was not met, and I was rather disappointed by this.

I also can recommend the title story (The Bread We Eat in Dreams*). It's a very nice take on the witchcraft/demon mythos.

Fade To White* was an interesting atomic '50's dystopia. Worth read
Jan 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
I love that she is eclectic and inventive. I love that she has different voices, as that is rare and beautiful in a writer. She gives lush, memorable moments to each story. I will never see the moon quite the same way again.
Valente is one of my favorite authors, so I was excited to get this ebook at such a good deal. I was disappointed with the quality, which I assume is not the author's fault. There are numerous, easily seen typos.
That being said, it is a significant glimpse into her writing a
Melanie Zhang
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The fact I loved this book is pretty much a no-brainer - this is Valente at her best, and it's almost frightening how perfectly she spans multiple genres. There is poetry here, sometimes cryptic, sometimes sparsely powerful; short stories about mythology, about everyday life, about everyday life post-apocalypse, about all the different apocalypses you can have. The kind of collection where you have a unique opinion about every single story inside. Just brilliant stuff.
Apr 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Mixed. Definitely not one of her best.
Marita Arvaniti
Oct 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It had "White Lines on a Green Field" in it and it's still probably one of my fvorite short stories ever so how could the rating be any less
The blurb on the back of the book (curtesy of Publishers Weekly) mentions Valente’s ability to explore and convey the complexities and changes of youth. I’d argue that that’s her work in this collection of story stories and poems is more universal than that. You see, we’re all young when it comes to the stories that we tell ourselves. There’s a reason why almost all the protagonists in fairy tales are children or teenagers. It’s easy to relate to the plight of the young because we’re like them. ...more
Lia Cooper
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017
average star rating 4.13

more detailed thoughts (incl individual short story ratings/reactions) will be coming, for now i'm just going to say WOW yes this is my type of collection. Not every short in this knocked it out of the park for me but a lot of them did. this felt like such a complete and diverse look at fairytales and magical realism my brain feels compressed and weighed down in the aftermath. a little like being struck my a car and left to drift in the sea at night.

Individual Ratings (w/
It took me probably a week to a week and a half to get through this; it was very stop and go and I will admit I skipped a few stories/poems. A lot of these I have read before in various anthologies, and while I remember them being good, I didn't feel the need to reread them.
At her best, the author's writing is lyrical and playful, pulling a lot of vivid, original imagery together into one whole with seemingly no effort; at her worst (for me), it's dreamy, surreal nonsense that crosses from being
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: james, ebook-only
I can't believe it's taken me this long to start reading Valente! It seems this is an odd choice of books to pick up as a first introduction to her work, but so many of the stories in this collection have guaranteed that I'll be visiting more of her work in the near future. A few in particular are worth 5 stars:
- The Consultant - Hooked me on her use of language and imagery from the very beginning.
- A Voice Like a Hole - Interesting reading this at the same time as "Every Heart a Doorway." Some
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Catherynne M. Valente was born on Cinco de Mayo, 1979 in Seattle, WA, but grew up in in the wheatgrass paradise of Northern California. She graduated from high school at age 15, going on to UC San Diego and Edinburgh University, receiving her B.A. in Classics with an emphasis in Ancient Greek Linguistics. She then drifted away from her M.A. program and into a long residence in the concrete and cam ...more

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“I said: I could be a wolf for you. I could put my teeth on your throat. I could growl. I could eat you whole. I could wait for you in the dark. I could howl against your hair.” 26 likes
“I tell them: don’t depend on a woodsman in the third act. I tell them: look for sets of three, or seven. I tell them: there’s always a way to survive. I tell them: you can’t force fidelity. I tell them: don’t make bargains that involve major surgery. I tell them: you don’t have to lie still and wait for someone to tell you how to live. I tell them: it’s all right to push her into the oven. She was going to hurt you. I tell them: she couldn’t help it. She just loved her own children more. I tell them: everyone starts out young and brave. It’s what you do with it that matters. I tell them: you can share that bear with your sister. I tell them: no-one can stay silent forever. I tell them: it’s not your fault. I tell them: mirrors lie. I tell them: you can wear those boots, if you want them. You can lift that sword. It was always your sword. I tell them: the apple has two sides. I tell them: just because he woke you up doesn’t mean you owe him anything. I tell them: his name is Rumplestiltskin.” 19 likes
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