Book Review: Palimpsest – Catherynne M. Valente

Palimpsest – Catherynne M. Valente

The name isn’t easy. Neither is the story. But I am glad I read it and I would encourage people to pick it up.

Catherynne Valente has made a story about a city that is sexually transmitted. Just roll with it. It’s a fairy tale. Or more… it’s fairy tales. And like all real fairy stories, it is not easy.

This is an adult fairy story with adult themes of loss and love and motherhood and isolation and need and cruelty and war and everything and nothing at all. And the deals one makes to stay in the beautiful, insane, dark, lovely, brooding, delirium of the city are hard.

You can find what you need in Palimpsest, but it is not an easy path. And for some the path will be forever closed. It’s beautiful, but cruel. There is love, but there is also obsession. The deals need blood or suffering or forgiveness or utter joy. To live in Palimpsest you have to give yourself over to something. To heal a scar of war or to build the beautiful corner of a map.

To find your way to this wonderland you have to be reckless and a little wonton. It is almost an addiction, but always a connection — brief connection. Because you can’t go there alone.

I can’t explain the book, I can only say that I loved the experience of it. And it is satisfying on an emotional level.

I would recommend it for people who like Russian literature and people who like poetry and people who jump down the rabbit hole of surrealism and magical realism with abandon.

This is *not* for someone who likes a straight-forward mystery or is looking for a quick adventure.

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The Top 10 Books for our current Dystopia

The world’s gone a little crazy recently. I’d say especially in America, but I know we’re not the only ones having issues. I was talking with a friend and we were talking about books that we recommend, even though we may not be fans of them. And we realized that they were an essential handbook for the dystopia we see looming. So, we think you should read them too. Even if you don’t like them, they’re important.

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
    1. In the world of the near future, who will control women’s bodies?
  2. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
    1. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.
  3. 1984 – George Orwell
    1. A masterpiece of rebellion and imprisonment, where war is peace, freedom is slavery, and Big Brother is watching…
  4. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
    1. Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
    1. The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it.
  6. Night – Elie Wiesel
    1. Everyone knows about Anne Frank and her life hidden in the secret annex – but what about the boy who was also trapped there with her?
  7. Native Son – Richard Wright
    1. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic.
  8. The Giver – Lois Lowry
    1. Lowry’s unforgettable tale introduces 12-year-old Jonas, who is singled out by his community to be trained by The Giver.
  9. A Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
    1. A darkly satiric vision of a “utopian” future—where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order.
  10. All the President’s Men – Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
    1. The most devastating political detective story of the century: the inside account of the two Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate scandal.

Find all of the books here on this Powell’s Bookshelf.

Books to read November 2016

How to Lie with Statistics — Darrell Huff

How to Fake a Moon Landing — Darryl Cunningham

The Girl of Fire and Thorns — Rae Carson

Fake ID — Lamar Giles

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth — Isabel Greenburg

Carousel Tides — Sharon Lee
Carousel Sun — Sharon Lee

Wicked After Midnight — Delilah S. Dawson

The Occult Roots of Nazism — Nicholas Goodrick Clarke

Quote of the Week 9-16-16

“The war has disclosed the possibility of consumption to all and the vanity of abstinence to many. Thus the bluff is discovered; the laboring classes may be no longer willing to forego so largely, and the capitalist classes, no longer confident of the future, may seek to enjoy more fully their liberties of consumption so long as they last, and thus precipitate the hour of their confiscation.”

–John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace