sage's Reviews > Palimpsest

Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
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's review
Apr 14, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: queer-interest, sff, did-i-have-comments, disability, fiction
Read from April 14 to 18, 2010

** spoiler alert ** I'm not sure what to think of this book. Parts of it are grossly self-indulgent and other parts are stunningly beautiful. The emotional payoff of the ending worked for me -- embarrassingly so, even -- but the gratuitous porn didn't serve the story as much as it was meant to. The strongest parts of the book are when we see the characters invested in their relationships. Oddly, I found the sex underwritten in the midst of excessively ornate language. Interesting how she pulled that off.

I'm also reading Robert Hass' Sun Under Wood right now and I wonder if it was an influence. The words and tone match too perfectly.

However, the tone is a problem I have. The tone of the novel is unrelentingly exultant. It doesn't waver. It OUGHT TO waver with the horror and grief and loss the characters face, but they wave off all their troubles despite becoming indigent in their obsessions...which is an interesting and strange way to romanticize an interesting and strange, brutal and transcendent sexually transmitted disease.

I wish this had been less extravagant and more coldly clinical in places, less blowhard and more rough scrape of reality. I mean, I still liked it all right, but in the end, four people fuck a lot and meet up in Japan. A little more substance to their lives would've made this a much more satisfying read.

Cataloging note: I don't understand calling it "urban fantasy" even if it is about a city. It's too lush. Even its grit is lush -- far more naturalistic and wild than "urban". *ponders*

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