The Changeling: Two Thirds of a Good Book, One Third…Less So


Like most people who like fantasy, I’m also a major fan of its sister genres (parent genres?) mythology and folklore. Myth today colors much of contemporary fiction, and it’s always interesting to learn how the original plays out before seeing the gay crossover space opera modernization.* Plus, fairytales are a weird experience, all around. Compared to contemporary protagonists, fairytale characters can seem weirdly flat, archetypes of “The Prince” and “The Mentor” who eternally slay the dragon and save the princess with only stock reasons given as rationale. There’s something old and odd about fairytales and myths, the ritualized nature of the conflicts and characters in them, and that same strangeness is what makes these stories so fascinating. There’s an elegant economy to fairy tales, a cohesion in the way they wrap together that gives them their own, particular brand of pleasure.

So when Marlon James of Man Booker Prize winner A Brief History of Seven Killings described Victor LaValle’s The Changeling as “a dark fairy tale of New York” and NPR’s Amal El-Mohtar gave it a glowing review complete with unnecessary but somehow charming metaphor about the Pleiades—well. Of course I had to read it. Continue reading “The Changeling: Two Thirds of a Good Book, One Third…Less So”


A Tale for the Time Being is ….An Interesting Time


On paper, A Tale for the Time Being is the kind of book I should be all over: it’s got screwed-up families, immigrant angst, deuteragonists whose stories eventually collude, AND footnotes (I’m always a sucker for footnotes). Ruth Ozeki herself is kickass cool, being a filmmaker and a fucking Zen Buddhist priest in addition to an acclaimed novelist, which is like, seriously, c’mon. Not fucking fair.

Practice, of course, is a more complicated matter. I enjoyed A Tale for the Time Being, yes, but it’s the kind of pleasure that comes with qualifications, little notes of except and if only. I can pinpoint all of this ambivalence to one central problem: this book wants to tell two stories at once and frankly, one of those stories just happens to be far more interesting than the other.

Continue reading “A Tale for the Time Being is ….An Interesting Time”