Dec 22 2014

Strange and beautiful: Catherynne M. Valente



valente fairyland


I first encountered Catherynne Valente at a Readercon, when we sat side-by-side at the autographing table one afternoon. I had never read anything by her, and during a lull I took a look the books she had with her for sale. I picked out Palimpsest more or less at random.

It was absolutely unlike anything I ever read before. Valente’s prose is wildly poetic, her imagery weird and lush, and heated.

Also: plenty of sex in Palimpsest. In the tale, persons who discover fragmentary maps appearing as tattoos on their body gain admission to a fantastical city — but only after intercourse with someone else with a map-tattoo. (Want to see more city? Have more sex. ) But within that city, four people discover that they share a deep connection, and they move heaven and earth to find each other in the real world.

Well, that was my intro to her work.  I sought out her blog (which is rather quiet lately), which I loved, and through that I learned of her other works.  I went looking for the rest of it — and it was all so wide and wild, a full of delicious language.

You might recall the discussion that I held here on my blog of Habitation of the Blessed: Dirge for Prester John. Another book of monstrous beauty. (You can reread what we had  to say, which was a lot.)

But what I’d like to suggest this time: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

Yes, this is a fairy tale, and can be read to young children, read by older children, and read by you for yourself. Valente has created a wonderful, original world, rich enough for all ages.

I first read it as one of the freebies on her website, and there was a tip jar. I plunked down a bunch of bucks, I loved it so much. Then it came out on Kindle, and I bought it; and then the hardcover, with the quirky illustrations by Ana Juan — and I had to have that. So, that’s three times I paid for the same book, and it was worth every shiny penny.

Catherynne M. Valente’s books on Amazon

Catherynne M. Valente’s website and blog, which is worth reading for its own sake.