Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book note

by Catherynne M. Valente

I am not a particular fan of overwrought prose. I often find that writing that is praised to the moon for its lyrical beauty (oh dear lord, how I hate that word: lyrical) is needlessly baroque while adding nothing to the story. On at least one occasion, I've had the unpleasant feeling that an author is simply shouting, "LOOK AT THE WORDS I KNOW! LOOK WHAT PRETTY SENTENCES I CAN MAKE WITH THEM!" (I'm looking at you, The Witches of Eastwick.)

But I loved this book. I found the writing so beautiful that I would pause over phrases to enjoy the precise structure and vocabulary before moving on. But the prose doesn't try to carry the story on its own (one of the downfalls of bad literary fiction, in my experience.) The prose is the story, completely integrated. The way she uses words builds the imagery, which builds the city. If it is all delightfully strange (and it is) it is also consistent, and controlled. Palimpsest has exactly the moment-to-moment enjoyment I look for in a keeper.

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