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Mike Jasper
Posted on Monday, May 03, 2004 - 12:57 pm:   

MORTAL LOVE
Elizabeth Hand. Morrow, $24.95 (320p) ISBN 0-06-105170-5

* Hand (Black Light) explores the theme of artistic inspiration and its dangerous devolvement into obsession and madness through three interwoven narrative threads in this superb dark fantasy novel. In late Victorian England, American painter Radborne Comstock makes the acquaintance of Evienne Upstone, a model who’s inspired members of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and driven painter Jacobus Candell completely insane. More than half a century later, Radborne’s grandson Valentine ends up institutionalized after viewing intensely erotic paintings grandpa produced under Evienne’s spell. His experiences echo those of Daniel Rowlands, an American writer in contemporary London whose research into the legend of Tristan and Iseult brings him into contact with Larkin Meade, a fey lover whose passion leaves him physically and emotionally deranged. Subtle parallels and resonances between the subplots suggest that Evienne and Larkin are, impossibly, the same being: a force of nature incomprehensible to mortals, whom countless doomed artists have translated imperfectly into aesthetic ideals of beauty and love. Hand does a marvelous job of making the ineffable tangible, lacing her tale with references to the work of artists ranging from Algernon Swinburne to Kurt Cobain and capturing the intense emotions of her characters in exquisitely sculpted prose. With its authentic period detail and tantalizing spirit of mystery, this timeless tale of desire and passion should reach many readers beyond her usual fantasy base.

Agent, Martha Millard.
(On sale June 29)

Forecast: This one’s a sure bet to garner World Fantasy and International Horror Guild award nominations. Blurbs from Peter Straub and John Crowley will help signal that this is Hand’s breakout book.
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Mike Jasper
Posted on Monday, May 03, 2004 - 12:58 pm:   

Hi Liz! Hope you (and PW) don't mind that I posted the review here. Looks like it's going to be a great read. Congrats!
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liz hand
Posted on Monday, May 03, 2004 - 04:03 pm:   

Aw, Mike -- you'e a real sweetheart! Thanks so much -- and yes, I'm really psyched! I hope people like it -- I wanted to write sort of a smart beach book -- you know, the kind of thing you can read on the beach and not feel totally embarrassed by. So we'll see. I'm keeping my fingers crossed ...
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Mike Jasper
Posted on Tuesday, May 04, 2004 - 11:15 am:   

Hey, and I'll be at the beach for a week that first week of July. Guess I'll need to stop by the ol' book store and snag a copy, eh?
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Tim Pratt
Posted on Tuesday, May 04, 2004 - 12:41 pm:   

We got a spare galley of Mortal Love at the Locus offices a while back, and I read it over the course of several successive lunch breaks. It easily rates among your best work -- compelling, interesting, funny, and strange. I'll buy a copy when it comes out, for future re-reading.

There's a review of it coming up in the June issue of Locus, too.
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liz hand
Posted on Wednesday, May 05, 2004 - 02:32 pm:   

Thanks, Tim -- and just in case your ears were burning, your name was bandied about at a conference I was at last weekend, as one of the hot writers to watch (not necessarily on the beach, though it's a concept).

I'm glad you thought the book was funny. I thoguht it was funny too, sometimes, but you never know what people will think ...

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Tim Pratt
Posted on Thursday, May 06, 2004 - 09:36 am:   

Heh. That's nice to hear. Though I hope, for the sake of my readers, that my prose is more impressive than the sight of me on the beach...
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bill reynolds
Posted on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 02:57 pm:   

Embarrassed to read? Thanks a lot!!!! I was sitting in the car finishing it crying my eyes out while my wife (who is Korean and has this cultural problem with men crying) was shopping. It was a Korean market and she would have been SO embarrassed.
I have none of these problems at all. When we went to see RTK I warned her I would cry, which I did but not at the points where I thought I would. (I.e. at the lighting of the beacons but not the crowning of Elessar.)
Yours is a savage and wonderful book. I loved the offhand (pun intended) references, my favorite being the couplet from the only real Pink Floyd album from Astronomy Domine.
Made me think of (but not explicitly referenced)
Mythago Wood eating the rest of the world
Fairport Convention's rendition of Tam Lin, although you did ref R.T. but changed it to a Black Shadow - surfing the Allen Museum site were we?
The Tolkeinesque take on The Dichotomy of Time, with a scene near the end (Tate and Daniel) reminding me of a scene in the film of Queen of the Damned which I liked a whole lot better than the books. With all the problems I have with Tolkein (conservative, anti-democratic monarchist, pro-war yadda yadda) this theme still resonates.
But most of all the demiurge of James Branch Cabell. Before finishing ML, I took my signed, numbered, Storisende edition Beyond Life and re-read the chapters The Demiurge and The Witch Woman. Have you ever read Cabell? What do you think? If he was an early 20th Century songwriter he would have to be Cole Porter for the distance, the not-knowing if he is really serious or laughing at you, but I love his philosophy with all my heart.
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liz
Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 08:01 am:   

Bill -- thanks so much! I'm glad you got (and liked) the various offhand references. There's several Richard Thompson refs. in there; I didn't in good conscience feel that I could use the Black Lightning -- beyond my ken! a genuine classic -- so changed the bike to another in the series. Wicked bikes, all of them.

I haven't seen QUEEN OF THE DAMNED, though I did read the book. It had one genuinely frightening moment for me -- when the statue (or mummy? so long ago I can't recall) in one of the tombs begins to move. Yikes!

Very interesting your comment re: Cabell. I read one or two of his books as a kid (in the Ballantine Adult fantasy series), can't remember which -- THE HIGH PLACE, maybe? FIGURES OF EARTH? Also "The Way of Ecben" and JURGEN. I never really got into him -- he was too mannered for my taste, but I've not gone to reread him. Maybe I should? I'm curious now as to your take on him.

And of course I am VERY GLAD you were crying your eyes out. The right response! I was, too. That book broke my heart. Thanks again for your generous note --

Liz
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liz
Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 08:02 am:   

Bill, what's your reference to the Allen Museum site as re: the Black Shadow? do they have one there?
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bill reynolds
Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 04:29 pm:   

Yeah. First thing I did when I got to the Black Shadow reference was type it into Google. (This was before we went shopping, obviously.) Allen's Motorcycle Museum has beautiful photos of their Black Shadow. I thought I had busted where you got the description 'cause one photo is of the beautiful speedometer. They have a lot of other great bikes, mostly British. Their Hondas do nothing for me and they have no Harleys (that I could find) which pleases me no end 'cause they're just so, uh, Harley.
I found Cabell (and so many more, Walton, Hodgson, Hope M.,...) in that great series. My father's library had Lord Dunsany so I was already there. The entire Ballentine run is still in my basement archives.
Cabell is mannered, alright. But I've no problem with that having grown up on Gilbert & Sullivan, Cole Porter, and your boy Noel. (Also Irving and the Gershwins, but they were always suspect of being too sincere to count in this discussion.) I was 20 when I discovered rock and roll via a period in jazz and by 1974 had regressed to the point that I spent the next 3 years in CBGBs. But I digress. There is real tension in Cabell between the mannerisms and real emotion and ideas he feels passionately about, much like what I got from Porter and Coward. "I love the look of you, the lure of you, I'd like to take a tour of you." Wow. Gives me chills.
I forgot to mention that, although it pains me to agree with Robert Christgau, he gets credit for pointing out that Waterloo Sunset is the most beautiful song ever written in the English language. First (of many many, although now I am much more enamored of Paris) trips to London in '72 at dusk I went to Waterloo Bridge and sang it softly to myself and.... But enough of my lachrymose excesses.
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liz
Posted on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 04:33 am:   

Yeah, "Waterloo Sunset" is drop-dead perfect.: it could be a Cole Porter tune. I love the Kinks, and while I didn't get to London till I was almost forty, when I *did* get there one of the things I did was visit my friend Anne, who lives in Muswell Hill. And I had this very eerie feeling of recognizing everything, because of course I *had* been there before, through all those songs.

Gee, I dunno that three years at CBGBs could be considered nothing more than a regression! sounds like my youth, and je regrette rien. I've still never been to Paris. Last night I watched Bertolucci's THE DREAMERS, which my friend Paul W. had recommended as being something I'd like. Nice mythologizing of film, nice homage to Cocteau. I always pretty much hated Bertolucci, but this one redeemed him a bit in my eyes.

"But I've no problem with that having grown up on Gilbert & Sullivan, Cole Porter, and your boy Noel..."

Sounds like "20th Century Man"!

"You keep all your smart modern writers
Give me William Shakespeare
You keep all your smart modern painters
I'll take Titian, Rembrandt, da Vinci and Gainsborough."

-- Ray Davies

The descriptions of the Vincent bike were inspired by a brilliant coffee table book titled ORIGINAL VINCENT, like motorcycle porn. There's also some great websites. God, I love those bikes. I had a photo session with some vintage British bikes, no Vincents alas but Nortons and Triumphs and the like. For some reason my editor didn't want to use the photos for ML, which I still regret. I'm afraid of riding motorcycles, but I'd keep a Vincent in my living room. Just the most beautiful thing.
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bill reynolds
Posted on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 06:11 am:   

I phrased that sentence because I thought I might get that reaction. "Regression" only in the sense of stylistic complexity. We were talking "mannered."
Short of not being in San Francisco in '66, '67 which was almost(?) irrelevant because of The Fillmore East in '68, '69, I have been pretty much everywhere when it was important to have been there for the music. I am very proud of having participated in the birth of CBGBs. Tout je regrette rien.

I feel like the great Move song

"I've seen babies dancin' in the midniht sun
I've seen old men cryin' at their own gravesides."

I have been, through no doing of my own, except for paying attention, incredibly blessed. Of course in later years, I could afford to make the choices, like going to Paris for Le Fete' du trente ans du Magma.

I didn't think of 20th Century Man. I have to break out of my Rainmakers-lock (which started when I posted something on Lucius' board about Stephen King who was a Rainmakers fan which almost compensates for his not being a very good writer) and put Muswell in the player. It was the last Kinks LP I truly and thoroughly loved, although Everybody's... has great moments.

Just edited out an entire history of my mother's adventures in New York in the 20's and 30's when it was important to have been THERE.

Can't agree with you on Bertolucci. Hated Last Tango, but liked all of the Oriental trilogy. Looking forward to The Dreamers.

Came back from the downstairs archives. Looking for extra Beyond Life which I know I have and wanted to send you. Too much entropy at the moment. Try again later.

What were you doing up at 4:33?
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bill reynolds
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 09:41 am:   

Oh. I forgot to ask and I've been meaning to do this for a month. The Hoffman ref. Everyone seems to think that was for Tales of Hoffman. They're probably right, but knowing your admiration for the late Angela Carter it took me to the first book of hers that I read: War of Dreams AKA The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman. Any chance I'm right?
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liz hand
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 11:36 am:   

He's actually Heinrich Hoffmann, author of STRUWWELPETER, an early alienist who really did run a German insane asylum. Dr. Learmont's shears are a sideways glance at The Great Tall Tailor in STRUWWELPETER, who snips off the digits of naughty children who suck their thumbs. This was a favorite book of my childhood, and so far the only person who's gotten the reference in my sister. Jack Zipes would probably get it, too ...
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JV
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 11:44 am:   

Liz:

Then you might like Clare Dudman's 98 Reasons for Being, a new novel just published in the UK. It's about Hoffman. Dudman's an amazing author--her first novel, One Day The Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead is stunning.

I'm still reading Mortal Love. My current thoughts about it are on my blog in a couple of places--you'll have to scroll down for some of it.

http://www.vanderworld.blogspot.com

Really enjoying it.

See you soon at WorldCon!

JeffV
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liz
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 04:22 pm:   

Hey Jeff -- thanks for the heads-up on Clare Dudman. Great title! Hoffmann is amazing -- can't wait to see her take on him.

I'll be at Worldcon tomorrow, looking for Snuffleupagus!



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