Dreams of the Compass Rose

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Sep 012009
 
Dreams of the Compass Rose

I first got to know Vera Nazarian the writer and Vera Nazarian the person when I was legally out to lunch. Having fractured an ankle very severely and come down with adult pertussis on the same day, I spent several months dreaming awake, on a cocktail composed of fever, prescription narcotics, and fantastic literature. I had not read fantastic literature in over ten years. This was to be the beginning of a passionate reunion with science fiction, fantasy, and fandom, with the establishment of an online fan identity and maiden con-going soon to follow. It was not intended that way.

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 Posted by at 10:20 pm

Salt of the Air

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Sep 012009
 
Salt of the Air

Salt of the Air is Vera Nazarian’s first collection of standalone stories, more or less. Apart from “Rossia Moya” and “The Young Woman in the House of Old,” the stories could easily belong to the same sequence, but there is nothing in them to indicate for sure that they do. Nazarian’s prose and plots also somewhat more linear in this book than elsewhere, though both are still quite unconventional. It is a memorable collection. But nothing in it is neat, making it difficult to judge it story by story. Her pace remains deliberate and the stories are best read slowly, savored one at a time, and if possible reread. Layers of meaning eventually make the most puzzling tales clear on a poetic level, if not always one easy for the intellect to process.

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 Posted by at 10:20 pm

The Duke In His Castle

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Sep 012009
 
The Duke In His Castle

In Nazarian’s story, the love of the eponymous Duke, Lord Rossian, for Nairis, an idealized and spiritual beauty, is a way for Rossian to love what he himself becomes in adoring her: “He has been transfigured by his arcane act of making, made receptive, sensitive.” The point of chivalry was in part to tame the male. But Russian-style chivalry is different from courtly love in the Western tradition. The adoration from a distance ends in possession and when need be in violence. The alternative to that is mastery on the part of the female, quite literal.

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 Posted by at 10:19 pm

Returning My Sister’s Face

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Sep 012009
 
Returning My Sister's Face

Returning My Sister’s Face and Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice is a collection of twelve tales by Eugie Foster, a first generation Chinese-American who offers us stories drawn from Chinese and Japanese folklore. Foster’s work has been nominated for the British Fantasy, Bram Stoker, Southeastern Science Fiction, Parsec, and Pushcart Awards, and it’s easy to see why as she delights and delivers on the title’s promise. Here we have whimsy in the shape of a tea-kettle, and malice in a beautiful woman’s face.

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 Posted by at 10:19 pm

Demon Lovers & Other Difficulties

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Sep 012009
 
Demon Lovers & Other Difficulties

In speculative poetry, there seem to be two basic types of poets; those who gradually evolve a voice over the course of years and those who step out of the gate appearing to be already fully formed in terms of what their approach is going to be. I would put Sonya Taaffe and Catherynne Valente in this latter category, and Nicole, to me, seems to fit that billing.

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 Posted by at 10:19 pm

Needles and Bones

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Sep 012009
 
Needles and Bones

Needles and Bones is an evocative collection of stories and poems that cover genre favorites such as revisited fairy tales, mythic fiction and speculative literature. The anthology is peopled with angels and demons, pirates, stray gods and legendary creatures from a variety of cultures. The settings range from simple to exotic and, while some of the tales are more absorbing than others, each acts to open a door into the fantastic.

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 Posted by at 10:18 pm

The King of Elfland’s Daughter

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Sep 012009
 
The King of Elfland's Daughter

Anyone truly interested in the heritage of modern fantasy literature can hardly have missed hearing the name Lord Dunsany: for it is this man, Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany, who was one of the pioneers of the genre. Born in London on July 24th, 1878, he went on to be a marvelous jack of all trades — among them pistol-shooting champion, remarkable chess player, loyal and experienced soldier, and prolific writer — who produced over sixty books of plays, poems, essays, and stories during his lifetime. One of these books is The King of Elfland’s Daughter, written in 1924.

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 Posted by at 10:18 pm

Grimm and Grimmer

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Sep 012009
 
Grimm and Grimmer

In her introduction to the short story collection Grimm and Grimmer, Adrienne Jones explains that in ancient culture “folktales were the news, the entertainment and the celebrity gossip of the day … tales of princesses and wealthy men and horses without fleas; of rags to riches, finding the golden goose.” The old tales showed both the “hardships and heroics” of the times, she says, and this collection was spawned with the idea that modern life isn’t so different.

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 Posted by at 10:18 pm

The Book of Dreams

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Sep 012009
 
The Book of Dreams

The Book of Dreams is a story shaped by a variety of cultural myths and spiritual beliefs that meet and mingle on a road well traveled. There are stops along the way for poetry and song, feasts and first kisses, and myriad acts of bravery and sacrifice. In the end, Dana is rewarded with a magical sense of the place called home, a deep awareness of family and interconnectedness, and the recognition that Life is indeed a Hero’s Journey.

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 Posted by at 10:17 pm

The Uses of Enchantment

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Sep 012009
 
The Uses of Enchantment

Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales was published over thirty years ago. In keeping with the author’s then-reputation, it was received well; the book garnered many accolades, including the National Book Award. Since Bettelheim’s death in 1994, his stature as a psychoanalyst and critic have diminished. Notably, this very book can only be acquired second-hand, through used sellers. Whether numerous charges against the book, the plagiarized passages, the overly-Freudian analysis or overlooking of historical development of fairy tales, are fair or accurate, is not for me to determine. I can only ask, “Does the book remain useful for newer audiences and if so, how?”

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 Posted by at 10:17 pm

Into the Wild & Out of the Wild

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Sep 012009
 
Into the Wild & Out of the Wild

In her two-book series Into the Wild and Out of the Wild, Sarah Beth Durst creates a twist on fairy tales and the time-honored tradition of “happily ever after.”

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 Posted by at 6:28 am

Mythic Delirium 20

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Apr 272009
 
Mythic Delirium 20

Within the 10th Anniversary Issue of Mythic Delirium, not one single poem disappoints. Mike Allen has put together a stellar line-up of work from both regulars and new voices in the field. The feature of this issue is a poem by Neil Gaiman, an eerie and haunting contribution that sends cold shivers down the spine.

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 Posted by at 1:12 pm

Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde

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Apr 232009
 
Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde is well known for his wit, his plays, his poetry, his scary aging portrait, and the trials regarding his homosexuality — famous perhaps for everything he’s ever done except his fairy tales. Well, here’s a tidbit for you: those fairy tales represented one of his first major works to see print in the form of The Happy Prince and Other Stories published in 1888. Jack Zipes even suggests, in his excellent afterword to the Signet Classic edition, that it was in the deceptively simple, evocatively rich, and satire-ready language of fairy tales that Wilde first began developing his unique voice.

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 Posted by at 8:22 am

Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception

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Apr 232009
 
Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception

Lament is the story of Deirdre Monaghan, an unexceptional girl in Eastern Virginia with a demanding mother, an adorable best friend, and a harp. Her life takes a turn for the strange when a charming, enigmatic stranger named Luke appears at an arts festival and helps calm her pre-performance anxiety; suddenly she’s finding four-leafed clovers by the handful, seeing things others can’t, and discovering new strengths in herself that attract the unwelcome attention of the Fae.

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 Posted by at 8:21 am

Little, Big

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Apr 232009
 
Little, Big

Little, Big becomes unique when one considers it as a story, not a trope: for it works very well as a story. This distinguishes it forever from many other books which it superficially resembles and to which it has been compared. It has, for instance, been likened to Joyce Carol Oates’ Gothic pastiches, but one is apt to care about Crowley’s characters long after one has forgotten Oates’; it bears more resemblance to Oates’ great inspiration in Alice in Wonderland. One can spend a couple of days with Little, Big and enjoy it on no other level than that of delicious prose and incident.

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 Posted by at 8:19 am