Making Myth, Music and Magic

I have a passion for books and music. E-books are very popular but I prefer print because books are a full body experience. I get a thrill from the smell of ink and paper. It’s the only time knowledge and tales have a scent and when I walk into a library my spirit soars, carried away on perfumed promises of insights and flights of fancy. On Reddit, I’m subscribed to Libraryporn where people post pictures of amazing libraries. There are some breathtaking vaults of knowledge. The sounds of books excite me. When I do get a chance to buy a brand new book, as I did with the Harry Potter series, I love the cracking shwooosh glide of a magazine then the crackle of a newspaper. Bound books have different textures. Different types of paper, covers and font types. There is leather, cloth, fake leather, raised lettering, cheap paper, high glossy paper, large atlases, and tiny pocket books. All of them stimulate your fingertips differently. This exploration of the senses is missed with e-books. Plus it’s free to go to the library and check out a book.

Just a few days ago I turned the last page in a book. “It can’t be over.” I thought and clutched the treasure to my chest. “No, no. It will be weeks before there is more.” That is the advantage of e-books. If I spent the money I could have the sequel now. Instead I’ve opted for the sweet torture of waiting for my interlibrary loan request to arrive via mail.

I’m speaking of the four books in the The Orphan’s Tales series by Catherynne M. Valente. (Wikipedia entry) I just finished book one and two which are compiled into In the Night Garden. I’m eagerly awaiting In the Cities of Coin and Spice. Much like One Thousand and One Nights, the tales are told by a single character, in this case an orphan with script tattooed around her eyes, but each tale includes other stories told by characters and those narrations include vividly told first person epics. “The series won the 2008 Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, and In the Night Garden was nominated for both the 2006 James Tiptree, Jr. Award and the 2007 World Fantasy Award.” (Wikipedia)

IMAGE: Close up of Catherynne M. Valente at a book reading. Wikimedia Commons

Catherynne M. Valente came to my attention when she was interviewed by Dee on Pagan FM in 2009. Listen here. She’s written many books in the Postmodern, fantasy, and mythpunk genres. She coined the term mythpunk. Wikipedia defines mythpunk as “a brand of speculative fiction which starts in folklore and myth and adds elements of postmodern fantastic techniques: urban fantasy, confessional poetry, non-linear storytelling, linguistic calisthenics, worldbuilding, and academic fantasy.[citation needed] Writers whose works would fall under the mythpunk label are Catherynne M. Valente, Ekaterina Sedia, Theodora Goss, and Sonya Taaffe.” You can also read her interview with JoSelle Vanderhooft at Strange Horizons “Mythpunk: An Interview with Catherynne M. Valente”.

Valente’s fairytale for adults is a rich masterful tapestry of magic and myth. Each character, those vile and heroic, is made real through the sharing of their tale which unravels their motives and intricate part in The Orphan’s Tales. She draws from well known motifs such as the kidnapped maiden locked away in the tower, pirates at sea, and shape shifting star people and twists them into something new. The maiden isn’t all she appears to be nor is she rescued by a prince. She’s rescued by the monster and the witch. The pirates are brave mutant women who’ve built a community for those who were abandoned by their families and towns. How can I describe the lush words she uses that make reading like taking a bite of fruit from a forbidden garden or nibbling food sprinkled with exotic spice? You haven’t tried it before and you like it but it’s different so you have to ponder the texture and scent and taste and try it again and again. Reading the tales is like dreaming while awake or entering your magic circle for trance and when you close the book the drums have called you back. You recall the images that vividly swirl around in your mind weaving from one to the next. Their message is powerful to you but if you share them with others outside the context of the circle the experience will be lost on them.

S J Tucker
IMAGE: S.J. Tucker at Faerieworlds 2007 by Satyrblade 69 and released to the Public Domain Wikimedia Commons. She is tuning her guitar and wearing long braided colorful hair extensions in various shades of blue and white. There is glittery fairy style paint around her eyes under her glasses.

To top it all off Pagan singer-songwriter S. J. Tucker has conspired with Valente to produce two albums inspired by theThe Orphan’s Tales: For the Girl in the Garden and Solace and Sorrow. Both albums include original songs and theatrical readings from the books. The albums can be downloaded as MP3s by naming your own price. Thank you S. J. Tucker!

I’m off to listen to “A Ship Full of Monsters” again. Until next time.

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