Dale Jr.'s Reviews > The Fifty Year Sword

The Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z. Danielewski
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Dec 18, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: 2-star, fiction

A first and possibly last venture into Danielewski pages. I was lent this book from a friend of mine. She thought that maybe I'd enjoy it. I can't say that there weren't moments or excerpts which I did, actually, enjoy. Some pieces I may have even found beautifully tragic:

...in spite of so many climbing / figures / on so many / paths, I was completely / alone up there. / Far worse than the / petrified shadows and the falling / notes, the multiplication upon / multiplication of my own solitude / brought me rapididly to the edge of despair...


But small passages and bits of a thread do not hold me together for an entire (do not take that word to signify lengthy) book.

While I was reading, and before I knew any better, I couldn't help but imagine this as a stage play of some sort. Low and behold, this was performed as a shadow show. It would probably do better to stay as such.

Many of the things complained about in other reviews I can look past. The formatting of the words does not bother me at all. I knew Danielewski was known for playing with format in extreme ways just by flipping through a copy of House of Leaves which still sits on a shelf in a closet unread at my father's house. Reading lots of poetry, as I am oft to do, significantly improves my tolerance for experimenting in format. I can see where it may get annoying for the casual reader, however.

The blank pages seemed wasteful and unneeded. As far as I can guess, MZD kept them blank to keep from cluttering the format up more than it needed to be...but who knows where his mind was with the decision.

The illustrations were interesting, but used, mostly, as a sort of background noise with no real form or true image. Abstract would be the word I'm looking for. However, some of the images held a more solid form and idea. I'll give the book points for that. Maybe he could have dressed up the blank pages with some more of this. But I digress.

The story line, at first, is rather jumbled and garbled. Eventually it comes around and you get used to MZD's penchant for fabricating words out of already-existent words. Well, it's more of an intentional misspelling or addition of extra letters rather than a fabrication which are prone to breaking up the pace of the story. Maybe that was his intention. Who the hell knows?

I suppose I can't do too much complaining seeing as how it took me less than an hour to read the book. It's also a plus that I didn't have to purchase it. So, I gave it a shot. It was OK, but I'm almost indifferent about it save for the few little pieces I did get some enjoyment out of. If you're curious, you could always find it on the shelf and read it in the store. It wont take you long.

After this read, I'm confident that the (probably) dusty copy of House of Leaves will remain unread. At least for the foreseeable future.
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message 1: by Patricia (new)

Patricia I don't know about his other work - but House of Leaves is compelling and haunting. I had to read it for a summer course during my undergrad and was so glad. I would say give it a try :-)


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