Saturday, October 27, 2012

Review: "The Fifty Year Sword" by Mark Z. Danielewski

I only found out after reading this book that it was never meant to be a novel to be read. Much like Finnegan’s Wake, the true power of Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Fifty Year Sword comes from a live reading of the story, which is to be performed as a puppet and shadow show performed by five people (denoted in the book using different color parenthesis). I don’t think reading it alone as you would a normal book gives the story an honest feel, but with anything coming from the endlessly innovative mind of Mark Z Danielewski, normal is a four letter word worthy of a swear jar payment. I cannot begin to tell you how amazing House of Leaves is. It is a book that looks daunting, but do not let the books odd line structure and color scheme fool you; it might be the most fun you have reading postmodern fiction ever. It’s a ghost story, an adventure story, a drug story, and a love story rolled into a big pile of grand ideas and a need to destroy whatever notions we have about what a novel can do. Simply put: I love it. And while Danielewski brings his same kind of bravado and talent to The Fifty Year Sword, its full effect is never truly felt. It tells the story of a group of orphans being watched on Halloween night by Chintana, when a mysterious man comes out of the darkness to tell the kids a story about where he got his sword, and what is in the box with five latches that sits in front of the kids. It is a cool story, especially when this man begins to explain what he went through to get the sword and from whom, but it really is a performance piece not meant to be read alone. I hope to see the performance one day, and hope Mark Z. Danielewski keeps ripping to shreds any and all literary familiarity.
Rating: 4/5

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