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Black Juice

Posted on 2007.11.27 at 00:42
Current Mood: discontentdiscontent
Yup, I'm up late blogging.  Why?  I can't seem to find anything I want to read, ever since finishing Margo Lanagan's  collection Black Juice a few days ago.  You'll remember that Margo was my ally and protector on my archetypes panel at the World Fantasy Convention.  I had taken the book out from the library before heading for New York, but hadn't had a chance to crack the spine (I did buy Margo's World Fantasy Award-nominated Red Spikes while I was there).  Thanks to a rec by rosefiend , I picked it up one evening to check out "Singing My Sister Down," and I was sucked in to a world both bizarre and yet strangely wonderful.  And as I read the collection, I came to two conclusions:

1. Margo Lanagan's muse is insane.  Or possibly an alien.  Or both.  Because there is no way that the premises of the stories in this collection came from the world you and I are living in.  They are--and I mean this literally--indescribable.  I could try to tell you what "Sweet Pippet" or "Red Nose Day" are about, but you'd never believe me (I have a great deal of sympathy for Margo at query letter time).

2. But Margo herself is some kind of genius.  She takes these utterly bizarre ideas sent by the lunatic muse, and spins them into pure magic.  Somehow, she just makes them work.  There is nary a misstep, not a word wasted or out of place... and by some force of wordgenius  (I'm telling you--she requires new words to talk about what she's doing) far beyond anything I'm familiar with, she translates completely alien concepts into stories that grip and terrify and delight, but never never never leave the reader behind, wondering WTF?  My editor called her work "brutal," and I guess that's true, too... but there's a level of clarity and perfection to the prose that transcends the disturbing. (Cheryl worked with Margo on Arthur A. Levine Books' recent "collaborative novel" Click.)

So here's the thing.  If you think there's nothing new in fantasy--if you think there are only a dozen stories in the world, constantly being told and retold--well.  Margo Lanagan is out there, begging to differ.


This is slightly OT from my paean there, but I also want to mention that ML is an absolute master of showing (as opposed to telling).  Some of you will have heard me talk about how and when to use telling effectively, because I firmly believe it has its place in fiction, particularly when you want to guide the reader, and help her interpret what she's just been shown.  Well, ML eschews that completely.  The stories in Black Juice are almost exclusively shown, and it is done absolutely perfectly.  Indeed, I think that telling, in this case, would actually weaken the prose, take away some of its raw power and bring the surreal too close to the mundane.

So.  After that, it's been hard to sink my teeth into anything else.  Sigh.  I'm sure that will pass.  And no, I can't just read Red Spikes; I'm saving that for a special occasion (working on the Greek novellas, when I'll need an infusion of rawness).


faerie_writer at 2007-11-27 12:11 (UTC) (Link)
I've heard of Margo Lanagan but haven't read her stuff yet. You've definitely peaked my interest! I must get out there and find her work. :D
Melinda R. Cordell
rosefiend at 2007-11-27 14:45 (UTC) (Link)
Oh goody, another satisfied customer! Glad you *really* liked it.

Faeriewriter, I adjure you to read that first story. It's been about three years since I read it and it still freaks me out.
faerie_writer at 2007-11-27 15:49 (UTC) (Link)
I will! Thanks. :D
Mirth & Matter: The Journal of Elizabeth Bunce
elizabethcbunce at 2007-11-27 19:01 (UTC) (Link)
But, see, it *didn't* freak me out. I thought it was kind of beautiful.

(What does that say about me?)

"Red Nose Day," OTOH, made me feel kinda oogy. But then clowns always sort of do that, I guess.
parkerpeevy at 2007-11-27 19:26 (UTC) (Link)
I've read Black Juice and totally agree with you. It rocks. But it definitely didn't originate on Earth. It's so weird.

I think my favorite story is the one about all the girls who trained to be brides. Something like that. Her stories do seem to be almost beyond description.

Anyway, very cool book. Glad someone else enjoyed it.
lyriclemon at 2007-11-28 06:12 (UTC) (Link)

Red Nose Day?

On Red Nose Day (Comic Relief) in the UK, people wear fake red noses in aid of charity.
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