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January 2004
 
Book Reviews
Charles de Lint
Elizabeth Hand
Michelle West
James Sallis
Chris Moriarty
 
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F&SF Bibliography: 1949-1999
Index of Title, Month and Page sorted by Author

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Books To Look For
by Charles de Lint

Beyond This Dark House, by Guy Gavriel Kay,
Penguin Canada, 2003, Cdn$20.

IT SHOULD come as no surprise to readers of Kay's splendid novels that his first collection of poetry resonates with marvelous use of language. Throughout the book, in poem after poem, lines leap from a verse to shiver their way into the reader, waking empathic feelings of melancholy and joy as memories from our own lives echo against those the poet offers to us.

Since we're all individuals, different elements will appeal to each of us. I have my own favorites.

In the first piece, a long poem about returning to one's hometown, the narrator is looking at houses and remembering their inhabitants, "…men and women mostly/dead now. Each address marks a grave."

In "Tintagel," he tells us of a woman who was dark haired and "…walked with a grace of shyness.…"

In "After the Ball": "The city, in its own disarray/is also sleeping."

In "Goddess": "Words unspoken linger/longer than the spoken."

In "Reunion" the narrator searches for silence as "…we breathe/a brittleness into each other/saying too many things.…"

Kay writes about moments in his life—small stories with large internal impact—but he tells some grand tales, too, with poems from the viewpoint of Guinevere, Cain, and other figures from myth and folklore, named and unnamed. The voices change from modern conversational to a higher mythic language. What ties them all together is the singular vision of the poet, both secret and revealing.

This is a book that will certainly appeal to lovers of Kay's fiction, but I'd also recommend it to any reader with an interest in contemporary poetry.

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The Gryphon, by Neil Bantock, Chronicle Books, 2001, $19.95.
Alexandria, by Neil Bantock, Chronicle Books, 2002, $19.95.
The Morning Star, by Neil Bantock, Chronicle Books, 2003, $19.95.

If you like Bantock's earlier trilogy featuring Griffin and Sabine, you'll probably be equally taken with this new trilogy. It features a similar correspondence between lovers—this time a student in Paris named Isabella and an archaeologist named Matthew who is working on a dig in Egypt. Once again, readers get to peek in at a private exchange of postcards (the front appears on one page, the back on the other) and letters (which one removes from envelopes that are part of the book's pages).

Intruding on their correspondence are the characters of Griffin and Sabine from the first series, offering cryptic advice as the two young lovers have to deal with the villain Frolatti who plagued Griffin and Sabine during their own exchange of love letters and confidences in the first trilogy.

Bantock's artwork throughout is as charming as ever, which is the saving grace of what's really a repeat of an earlier hat trick. Because, while the incidents are new, the story, as was the story in the first trilogy, is rather slight, and this time the novelty of the postcards and letters that one can physically remove from the book is…well, no longer a novelty. So Bantock's new drawings and collages are the reason to pick up this series.

A word of warning: if you're unfamiliar with the first trilogy featuring Griffin and Sabine, you'll find this new trilogy incomprehensible, and would be wise to pick up the earlier books first.

*     *     *

Illumina: The Art of J. P. Targete,
Paper Tiger, 2003, $29.95.

Simply put, Paper Tiger publishes some of the best collections of artwork—not just once in a while, but on a regular basis. I always find something to appreciate in them. It doesn't even matter if I don't particularly care for the artist in question, or it's someone with whom I'm unfamiliar (though when that happens, it's usually in regard to the name of the artist, rather than the work, for I always find book covers in these collections that I remember seeing on the stands, if not on my own shelves). What seduces me is the wealth of biographical material, the wide variety of art (from initial sketches to finished pieces), and the insights provided by the artist.

Now maybe it's because I've got a bit of a jones for the creative process—I'm fascinated by how people approach their particular means of creative expression. Or maybe it's because I've always been fascinated by how an artist can put a whole story in one picture, where it takes me the proverbial thousand words to do the same. Actually, a lot more than a thousand words, but that's neither here nor there.

The point is, when one of these Paper Tiger books shows up in my P.O. Box, I know I have a pleasurable evening of poring through it ahead of me. And Illumina, featuring the art of Jean-Pierre Targete, didn't let me down.

Jean Marie Ward provides a very readable and informed text, liberally sprinkled with quotes from the artist, and the art ranges from juvenilia (with the artist already showing promise) to the more mature paintings readers might recognize from the covers of books by Patricia Briggs (who provides a brief foreword), Roger Zelazny, Emma Bull, Lynn Abbey, Jane Yolen, Gregory Benford, and many others.

The appendix will be of particular interest to new artists who want to see how it's done. It breaks down the cover for a Dragonstar player handbook, from thumbnails to finished painting, with Targete explaining the process every step of the way.

Naturally, different paintings will appeal to different people. My favorites were the photo-realistic The Virgins of Paradise for the novel by Barbara Wood, a portrait with mesmerizing eyes, and The March, a dramatic commentary on war that appears to be original to this volume (or at least there's no credit given for its use).

Considering the wide range of images—from high fantasy to high tech sf—there's something in here for every aficionado of genre art. The production values are top-notch: glossy, thick paper that lets the art shine.

And for those of you who feel that hardcovers are a bit much for your pocket book, Paper Tiger regularly reprints theirs in an oversized trade paperback format. For instance, Anne Sudworth's Enchanted World (reviewed in this column a while ago) arrived at the same time as the Targete book. It has the same wonderful stock and production value as the hardcover, but sells for only $21.95.

*     *     *

As I write this on a sweltering August day for you to read in January, I'd just like to mention my receipt of the special 60th anniversary issue of Fantasy Commentator, a journal specializing in the minutiae of our field. This issue, for example, explores the hidden history of the women who worked in the field between 1950-1960 (when it was still considered "boy's territory") and provides what appears to be a comprehensive bibliography of their contributions; part four of an ongoing series on Hugo Gernsback (you know, the guy whose name appears on that award); an index of reader's letters to Famous Fantastic Mysteries and other magazines; and much more, including reviews and poetry.

I mention all of this because while Fantasy Commentator was founded in 1943, it remains relevant, and is still being published. Few journals, not even the venerable one you hold in your hands as you read this, can say the same.

So happy 60th, Fantasy Commentator, and here's to your next sixty years!

For information on ordering copies, write to the editor at: A. Langley Searles, 48 Highland Circle, Bronxville, NY, 10708-5909.

*     *     *

Material to be considered for review in this column should be sent to Charles de Lint, P.O. Box 9480, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1G 3V2.

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