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Mark Z. Danielewski's The Fifty Year Sword

Danielewski, Mark Z.

(Book - 2012)
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Mark Z. Danielewski's The Fifty Year Sword
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"The nationally best-selling author of House of Leaves and Only Revolutions has crafted a powerfully chilling novella--a ghost story for grownup readers. Late one evening at a party at an East Texas ranch house, five orphans gather to hear a story about a quest for a terrible weapon. Before them lies a long black box with five latches. As the owner of the box settles into a curious tale of revenge, the children grow more and more captivated, even as we grow more and more afraid that a new crime may await them all, especially as clocks in Upshur County approach midnight"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, c2012.
Edition: 1st American ed.
ISBN: 0307907724
9780307907721
Characteristics: 285 p. :,ill. (some col.) ;,24 cm.
Alternate Title: Fifty year sword

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May 23, 2013
  • JCLChrisK rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I give Danielewski points for finding an inventive and original way to tell his story, and for the story itself, which I enjoyed.
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Unfortunately, the frame for the story (that frames a story within it), the form and structure of the words on the page, the artwork, and everything about this book imply there are layers upon layers of meaning to be found by the astute and careful reader. Which means I'm too lazy and obtuse a reader for the book, the layers are too obscure for the average reader, or the form exists for its own sake without offering deeper meaning. I kept trying to break the code of the colored quotation marks, piece together the individual words of the five different narrators or differentiate each one's personality by distinguishing characteristics of their distinct voices, but I had no luck. I tried pronouncing the orphans' strange names in different ways, reading them backwards, making anagrams from them to see if that led anywhere, and again didn't get anything for my efforts. I tried to connect the orphans to the five narrators, considered each invented combination word, wondered about Chintana's connection to the orphans and if it mattered that they were described as orphans instead of simply children--I looked at all the unusual and creative choices he made in the hopes of finding additional layers of meaning, and always felt stymied and frustrated. So, in the end, instead of tickling and entertaining me, those stylistic choices simply hindered my reading of the text.
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It looks cool and creative and intellectual, but I can't say if it actually is.

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