title: The Fifty Year Sword
[support an independent bookseller and purchase at Strand]
by: Mark Z. Danielewski
source: New York Public Library
The Fifty Year Sword was originally published in 2005 as a limited edition, and is usually only performed on Halloween night as a live shadow show. This month, however, it was re-released by Pantheon Books and I jumped at the chance to get my hands on a copy.
Like Danielewski’s previous work, the story being told is as important as how it’s being told, which is as important as how it looks as it’s being told. As in House of Leaves, which used multiple fonts, colors and text layouts to delineate the different parts of the story, The Fifty Year Sword uses five different color quotation marks and illustrations that resemble embroidery to tell the tale.
And what a tale it is: the plot follows the local seamstress, Chintana, as she attends a local Halloween party where she watches a mysterious storyteller tell a tale to five rambunctious orphans.
Haunting and lyrical with strong characterization, this story written in verse is a quick read (I finished it while doing laundry), but still leaves quite an impression. Definitely recommended.
Rubric rating: 8.