Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Girl Who Soared over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

Catherynne M. Valente hits another one out of the park --- and all the way up to the moon --- with The Girl Who Soared over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (previously: 0, 1, 2). Our protagonist continues to be September, no longer a little girl but a teenager, ageing at a fairly steady one year interval between books. This was another excellent jaunt to Fairyland, with  involved the question of free will and Turing tests and fundamental rights and lots and lots of silly and ridiculous fairy-magic. Yetis are involved, and time speeds up and loops back on itself variably. The observer effect is used, and of course the omnipresent narrator sneaks in some sly marginalia.

September meets her fate, written in a book (of course), and observes that  "You can't argue with something that's written down... there's nothing for it. Once it's written, it's done. All those ancient books always say 'so it is written' and that means it's finished and tidied and you can't say a thing against it." (p.162) The narrator continues by directly, fourth-wall-breakingly, replying:
Oh, but September, it isn't so. I ought to know, better than anyone. I have been objective and even-tempered until now, but I cannot let that stand, I simply cannot. Listen, my girl. Just this once I will whisper from far off, like a sigh, like a wind, like a little breeze. So it is written --- but so, too, it is crossed out. You can write over it again. You can make notes in the margins. You can cut out the whole page. You can, and you must, edit and rewrite and respahe and pull out the wrong parts... Living is a paragraph, constantly rewritten. It is Grown-Up Magic.
The entire book is full of these little touches and flourishes, head nods towards growing up and towards preserving magic and towards clevernesses in all their forms. As before, Fairyland is full of comic takes on adult life, as rephrased in terms of magical nonsense systems. But here Valente does the converse, too: she describes normal reality in magical terms. She blends from both directions. September is learning to drive, and gets a car in some parts of the adventure --- leading to the description by a fairy of gasoline as "saved-up sunlight. Giant ferns and apples of immortality and dimetrodons" (p. 151), a rather delightful stance to take on a fundamentally boring description of everyday fuel.

Nothing in Valente's writing is boring or everyday. All descriptions are amped-up, as if the Fairyland writing style were a baroque chest of drawers.  When describing the scene laid before the adventurers, it gets to be "vermilion and viridian and cerulean and citron and bold, glossy black, fairly glowing in the twilight." (p. 40) That's right: where other books might say it was red, green, blue, and yellow, with black outlines, Valente instead provides readers with an imaginative raid on the thesaurus. This is applied enough to be fun without verging into the exhaustion of rococo-saturation.

I continue to love this author. Read this book, too; if you've properly followed my recommendations to read its predecessors, you'll be drawn to read this book by your own reading gusto.

This post's theme word is logomania, "obsessive interest in words," or "excessive and often incoherent talking." Pardon my logomania, it is brought on by my logomaniacal reading habits.

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