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The Silk Road

2.94  ·  Rating details ·  214 ratings  ·  60 reviews
A spellbinding novel about transience and mortality, by one of the most original voices in American literature

The Silk Road begins on a mat in yoga class, deep within a labyrinth on a settlement somewhere in the icy north, under the canny guidance of Jee Moon. When someone fails to arise from corpse pose, the Astronomer, the Archivist, the Botanist, the Keeper, the Topolog
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Graywolf Press
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Average rating 2.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  214 ratings  ·  60 reviews

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Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: usa, 2018-read
In her experimental novel, Davis creates a highly associative narrative, full of characters and events charged with ambiguous meanings - there seems to be no limit to the possibilities a reader has to connect the dots. When eight siblings, enigmatically called the Astronomer, the Archivist, the Botanist, the Keeper, the Topologist, the Geographer, the Iceman, and the Cook are doing corpse pose at the end of a yoga class below an icy landscape (no, I am not kidding you), one of them fails to aris ...more
Dec 05, 2018 marked it as abandoned-on-hold
I read the first 40 pages of this slim book twice. While it did become somewhat more penetrable the second time around, it shall remain "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma" and not one that has made me curious enough to continue on in this state of confusion for 100 or so more pages.

Throw the poor reader a lifeline Ms Davis, sexy moss is just not enough.
Bill Hsu
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it
As with my other Kathryn Davis experiences, it's often hard to tell what's going on. But who cares when one can get lost in sentences like:
The Topologist could feel the Botanist scrutinizing her for a sign of whatever it was that had turned her from a stern-faced girl with dark brows and thin brown hair and a long upper lip, a string bean of a girl wearing pale blue cat's-eye glasses, into what she was now, a tube of skin that could be stretched into a torus to contain an entire universe.
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review to follow. Once my brain returns to my body.
Is it possible to be so discombobulated by a book that you deeply, deeply do not understand, only catch glimpses of its (non) meaning in the fiery heat of its literary annihilation, and yet ecstatically enjoy and savour every single word, sentence, longueur?

Kathryn Davis is living proof of the writer as a shamaness, and of reading as a mystical experience. With a book like The Silk Road, you basically have to detach yourself from everything you
Jennifer Ochoa
Nov 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2018, read-gave-away
DNF. Got over halfway through and realized I was wasting my time. A review mentioned it putting the reader into a kind of fugue state and if you enjoy that kind of thing, you might like this book. You will have no clue what this story is about, when it is, where it is, what the plot is (is there one?). I prefer my fugue states to involve not thinking so hard. It's why I tend to avoid poetry in my free time.
cardulelia carduelis
What in the actual. hell. did I just read?

Alright so I've done something with this book that I would never normally do: reread it immediately upon finishing. I had to because I've never been so uncertain about plot in something that is this clearly written. The Silk Road is a very strange beast. Each sentence is incredibly rendered with needle-tip precision but put each one together and things quickly get... weird.
Here's what it's like: an off-beat alt-pop song that's been glitched the shit out
John Madera
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A lyrical engagement with time, mortality, imagination, and archetypes, Kathryn Davis's The Silk Road is strange, haunting, and smart, its gorgeous, lyrical, evocative prose reminiscent of Rikki Ducornet, John Hawkes, and Virginia Woolf's writing.
Susan Ritz
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Kathryn Davis is one of those authors who takes me completely out of myself and into a parallel world where time is fluid, magic abounds and characters are mercurial. The Silk Road is a book that feels like a marvelous dream, taking the reader from a frozen land of future, to the childhood neighborhood of the past, to a walking tour through the present. Everything feels Topsy-turbulent, hard to hang on to, but in a way that compelled me deeper and deeper into the dream. The characters are archet ...more
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Can literature be a weed? An existence you can’t decide is so beautiful you refuse to yank it from the garden? Or a weed so quickly pulled the earth screams and the dirt falls like dark tears? What does one do with Kathryn Davis? Four novels into her eight novel career and I am lost. At a loss. Is she America’s Ali Smith? But more. I read lines that feel like a snort of coke and they wake me, shake me. I read lines and I stare out into the universe like the weed was real bad or too good. Ms Davi ...more
Felicia Edens
The Silk Road is set within an interstitial place, somewhere between dream and reality, between the conscious and unconscious, in between anything that allows for something to fit within it. Reading Kathryn Davis' writing in this novel is like falling asleep to music or the sound of conversation; as the mind drifts into deep sleep, the real auditory sounds produce images in the mind - dreams - and the words or music one hears begins to blur within the subconscious of the sleeping mind. As you mi ...more
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: slipstream, 2019
So we're agreed?
All of us?

This is perhaps the most surreal, dissociative book I've ever read. It's about death, and memory, and...That's it. That's all I know! There is a story-line. I just...can't...quite...see what the Maybe that's on me. (And maybe July was the worst possible time to read this.) According to the author's note at the end, much of the text was previously published in various short stories, so maybe that explains it. Maybe it's not even supposed to make sense.

I love
Genevieve Taylor
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Past, present, and future blend in this literary science-fiction. An allegory novel that evokes the Canterbury Tales, the book unfolds in the stories told by the occupants of a seemingly post-apocalyptic shelter. Reality and memory weave in and out as each resident recounts the journey that led them here, and their experiences of the present intertwine. The story comes together like a tapestry, woven of many different pieces. One of those books that should be read and read again, and each readin ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
I knew this was not going to be a straightforward novel, but it was a bit more labyrinthine than I was prepared for. Not sure I even understood much of what it was about. The writing itself was great but be prepared for a hard go. No skimming. Even though it is short, it takes as long to read as a regular length novel.
May 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
As always, Davis' writing is luminous, mysterious, delving into what can't be known. The story--is there a story?--baffled me. Time is slippery, we all know that, and identity. And symbols hover over every action, every encounter, every object that vibrates between material and imagined. Can we ever be sure?

It seems not--but we probably all know that too, however we may act in public.

Are we ourselves, one self?-- or a composite of multiple identities, finely honed and defined, named, by the si
Sanjay Varma
Jul 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
Perhaps this is the most elusive book I have read. It is the sort of book I would normally have put down, except I had promised a friend we would discuss it after reading it together.

It is challenging to read Davis. Her places, characters, and activities are symbolic, or allegorical. But their hidden meaning resists interpretation. Like finding an ancient book, but lacking a Rosetta stone to facilitate translation.

At various times I thought:

1. The eight primary characters were aspects of a singl
May 15, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting novel, but not as interesting as the NYTimes made it sound.
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is impressively done, but it certainly is a bit discombobulating as well. I’m sure I only got a portion of it. Perhaps a bit too conceptual for me to follow, I still enjoyed reading.
Alexa Kibbgy
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This novel is like reading a recount of a dream you've had. Settings blend into each other, characters disappear when you turn around. There is some vague string of a plot, but it's one driven by general feeling and atmosphere more than concrete events.
It takes place in a post-climate-crisis-dystopia/medieval Europe/arctic village and discusses mortality/voyeurism/organised religion/family/psychosexual development. The ending definitely felt sad but I'm not sure why.
The book becomes more enjoya
Jan 25, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
OMG this is complete torture. I got to 37 percent and I am completely clueless on what this is about. There is absolutely NO STORY NO PLOT and the reader is completely BORING> I read every day and listen to audio books while doing chores and cooking but this is completely not worth anyone's time. I bailed and usually I will attempt later because most of the time it is do to my own psyche but I shall never ever listen or read this or this author Absolutely BOREDOM ...more
Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some of these reviews are real irritating. I know it’s goodreads and I should set the bar low, but come on. The fact that you don’t “get it” and don’t want to work for it says more about you as a reader than it does about the novel itself. Return to your James Patterson. You don’t deserve Kathryn Davis.
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
elliptical and dreamlike. gorgeous prose.
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm afraid I don't have much to say about this short, occasionally breahtaking book that goes much beyond what everyone says. It's mysterious, and kind of hard to follow, but still funny and warm to the touch-- the circumstances and their consequences feel indistinct, but the characters are real, even if their lack of traditional names (they are all The Cook or The Botanist, etc) made them a little hard to keep straight. But two things are worth mentioning: first, there's this central conceit, o ...more
Jasmine Pope
Sep 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Linguistically rich, this novel requires energy, focus, trust and fascination with the present moment.

In reading The Silk Road, I had to be able to let go of questions that normally keep a reader reading..

Questions like, why is this happening? Wait, why is he/she called that? How did they get here? Why? When? How?

I had to let go because there was no immediate answer to them. If my simple questions were answered at all, it was not head on. It was going nowhere fast and when that cliche rang in
Andy Oram
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
The great strength of this book--the one that persuaded me to take it down from the shelf in the first place--is its highly lyrical, evocative style (for example: "it was difficult to see anything, the night saturated with water and without a moon, the wind causing the heavy fabric of our cloaks to spread and fold like wings").This style alternates with very down-to-earth conversation and snippets of old American folk song.

People who dislike ambiguity, or who need for ambiguities to be cleared u
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
I like to be sparing and gentle with my negative reviews. There are, in my opinion, very few novels that are genuinely not-good, and so I hesitate to call this novel...well, not good.

To make matters difficult, The Silk Road is /not a bad novel./ It is, in pieces, beautiful; the prose is lovely; the interactions between characters in (what I think is) their shared consciousness, fascinating and whimsical. Where I struggle with The Silk Road is in viewing it as a whole. In my time reading it, I ke
Greg Hickey
Nov 22, 2019 rated it liked it
The Silk Road is a painstakingly crafted, if confoundingly enigmatic, short and dreamlike novel. Author Kathryn Davis has great command of language and there are some downright beautiful passages. There is a lot of imagery, and while most of it works, some metaphors feel layered on, distracting and unnecessary.

Then there is the story itself, which begins with a death in a yoga class at an Arctic outpost and spirals into flashbacks and meanderings told by a collective narrator. What starts out a
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Here's what I wrote on my little card catalog at home:

I could grasp each individual sentence, but I will be damned if I have a clue what this is actually trying to say. I could weave an interesting guess, but it would be a guess. It's rare that something this clearly written is so damned impenetrable. I have no idea what I just read, and I took a huge amount of time for 144 pages. It felt more like a mood than a story.

It's about finding something, losing something, family, archetypes, the path
Sep 06, 2019 rated it liked it
few people write like Kathryn Davis, and that is probably a really good thing for the business of publishing... i love what she does with words, and have loved her previous books immensely... "The Silk Road" is overflowing with her talented mind, though i found the overly dense and opaque nature of the spooling out of this tale to be burdensome at best, labyrinthine to the point of absolutely no point at worst... still, as she references yoga in the tale, and mentions The Tibetan Book of the Dea ...more
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
idk why i loved this book so much. when i read kathy acker and constance de jong, and other surrealist authors who basically thumb their noses at narrative, i am always so bored and have to drag myself thru the book, but with this book i was always captivated- it is basically one of the only books i have read that has made me REALLY see the full poetic power of the fact that matter is energy, atoms are mostly empty space and time is a flat circle, etc etc...and the ending made me cry! somehow! i ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
There is not much to be said about this book. Only thing I can think of, wasn't worth my time one bit. The characters were so flat it was unbelievable and let I kept going with this book based on its length but I'm glad I checked this out of the library first instead of buying it.

For some people this book might be enjoyable and the concept of the story is very interesting. Unfortunately, the execution was done poorly.
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Literary Explorer...: Tibetan Book of the Dead 1 2 Apr 10, 2020 08:30AM  
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Goodreads Librari...: Combine Editions - "The Silk Road" by Kathryn Davis 2 14 Dec 30, 2018 09:12PM  

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Kathryn Davis is an award-winning American novelist.

Davis has taught at Skidmore College, and is now senior fiction writer in the Writing Program in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

She is a recipient of the Kafka Prize, the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1999, a 2000 Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Literary Award for Fiction in

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