Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It is a reverence, a sting of the holy, as rich and powerful and desired as honey, and the book rolls on the tongues of paupers and kings alike, like fire, like hard cocks, like the welcoming embrace of a whole city. Indeed, this book is a love poem written by and scratched out by the city, itself, of Palimpsest, the fae kingdom of adulthood, of loss, abandonment, of scars and mutilations, of loveless sex and all the dirty waters of the world, of the ripe and blossoming heat of four who will finally make one, of the discourse of the bull and the serpent, and last, but not least, of all the maps of the universe, be they the eight-thousand door train or the touch of the third rail, be it the entire catalogue of all animals, imagined or real, plastered across the soul, be it madness and the touch of the wet lady, or be it the thousand bees in the belly, this is a novel of such grand depth and squirming desire, that I am literally tongue-tied in tracing the map upon the skin.
Or, put a bit more simply, I liked this novel.
It was sadness given form, with just a hint of hope to flavor the flood of despair, of obsession and longing. It, like all of Valente's writing that I've had the immense joy of reading, has been so utterly well-read and well-crafted and so very deeply loved, never fails to amaze and shock and make me want to get on my knees and say, "I am not worthy."
There are a few technical things I'd like to say.
I've never read an author with such a confident use of semi-colons. She writes whole novels as if they were poetry. Indeed, the plot is never so easy to parse, and the very act of reading it requires nearly as much imagination as the author, just to make love to the words we read and fill it (or be filled) with a sense of completeness.
Never imagine that this is anything other than brilliant.
But then again, never imagine it is easy. This book is a lover that will show you all her dark secrets and then leave you as soon as she makes you hold her hair so that she may vomit over the side of your bed.
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