Wednesday, April 01, 2009

In the Night Garden -- Catherynne M. Valente

Why I read it: There was a reference to the author on some website or other (might have been Jeff Vandermeer's) telling about a new book coming out. The library didn't have that one. It had this one, though.

Tastes like chicken: That other (vampire) book I haven't finished yet (I'll finish it soon. Next. Really.). C.S. Lewis's A Horse and His Boy (Narnia). The flavour seemed more Persian than Arabian to me, though I can't think of anything Persian I've actually read. But maybe that's because I know more Persians than Saudis.

Bookmark: Cardboard packaging from a USB key I bought a couple of weeks ago.

What I liked: The detail was very rich. It made me want to wear more colours.

Unlike the afore-mentioned vampire story, which is also stories within stories within stories, these ones are more lightly related. The vampires are all closely related, about the same place, and the same vampire. These are characters pausing to tell their history, their "how I got here", which is what winds up tying them all together. The vampire story seems to be the more sophisticated, complex story, but that's all surface. Really, In the Night Garden requires the closer, more attentive reading. Reading and remembering is the only way you'll notice that the old king is the younger brother of the daughter who got taken away by the wizard, and that the bear from the first half is the barkeep in the second half, etc. These are things that make this book not just a series of cut-up and interrelated short stories.

Not so much: When I started reading, I was fearful and nervous about all the dense metaphors. Everything is described in layers like a fairy tale. Every hide is the colour of blood, every sky, etc. But I got used to that once I'd let myself go to it and not worried about every sentence without context.

And the structure. I was afraid I was going to get lost and forget who was who, and that happened a bit because it took me 2.5 weeks to read, but it was worth the bother.

Lessons learned: Ya know, I'd love to write something with this organizational structure -- maybe take the modern ghost thing "Like Watching Grass Grow") and reorganize it this way (since it's all crap anyway, but the characters are all there, and they all have backstory all over them). Maybe I could smooth it over again afterward.

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