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Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente

Palimpsest (edition 2009)

by Catherynne Valente

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8074711,302 (3.78)1 / 94
Authors:Catherynne Valente
Info:Spectra (2009), Edition: Original, Paperback, 367 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente

  1. 20
    Griffin & Sabine: an extraordinary correspondence by Nick Bantock (kalexa)
  2. 20
    The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (Jannes)
    Jannes: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland was first concieved in Palimpsest as one of the protaginists' favourite book. Then it sort got a life of it's own, so to speak. Palimpsest is probably not for children, though.
  3. 10
    Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (PhoenixFalls)
  4. 00
    The Duke in His Castle by Vera Nazarian (ligature)

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Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
Not at all an easy read but so, so beautiful. Well worth the trouble. ( )
  Oakfairy | Jul 15, 2014 |
Four misfits are introduced to the fairytale city of Palimpsest, and must decide whether they are willing to pay the price to keep making the journey. This is an assault of lush prose and rich imagery, peppered with dysfunctions a-go-go, basketfuls of sex, and the odd observation about where society is going wrong. I'm not honestly sure whether I liked it, as I was mostly overwhelmed (not a book to read with a persistent migraine as it turns out). I will revisit it and revisit my rating at some point when I'm clear-headed - for now, there's things to like, lots to be uncomfortable with, and some food for thought. Mostly though, it felt like puzzling out an intensely detailed tapestry or animation - lots of little bits of stuff going on, but no space to resolve it into a coherent image. ( )
  imyril | Feb 25, 2014 |
I'm not sure what to think of this book. Parts of it are grossly self-indulgent and other parts are stunningly beautiful. The emotional payoff of the ending worked for me -- embarrassingly so, even -- but the gratuitous porn didn't serve the story as much as it was meant to. The strongest parts of the book are when we see the characters invested in their relationships. Oddly, I found the sex underwritten in the midst of excessively ornate language. Interesting how she pulled that off.

I'm also reading Robert Hass' Sun Under Wood right now and I wonder if it was an influence. The words and tone match too perfectly.

However, the tone is a problem I have. The tone of the novel is unrelentingly exultant. It doesn't waver. It OUGHT TO waver with the horror and grief and loss the characters face, but they wave off all their troubles despite becoming indigent in their obsessions...which is an interesting and strange way to romanticize an interesting and strange, brutal and transcendent sexually transmitted disease.

I wish this had been less extravagant and more coldly clinical in places, less blowhard and more rough scrape of reality. I mean, I still liked it all right, but in the end, four people fuck a lot and meet up in Japan. A little more substance to their lives would've made this a much more satisfying read.

Cataloging note: I don't understand calling it "urban fantasy" even if it is about a city. It's too lush. Even its grit is lush -- far more naturalistic and wild than "urban". *ponders* ( )
1 vote sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
There is a world of dreams where you can go if you have a special map shaped mark on your skin anywhere and you have sex with a similar individual. The special mark is bistowed in a group of four in a special ceremony. In the real world if you can find all four individuals you can emigrate to Palimpsest for ever.

It is an interesting concept but the the book goes nowhere. ( )
  mausergem | Sep 27, 2013 |
...I must admit I'm not too fond of novels that use beautiful language for the sake of it. It took me a while to read it as I can only take in so much of this style at a time. Puzzling out the the language is challenging and this is one of the few novels I've recently read that make me feel I'm a second language English speaker. At some points I think Valente does go overboard on the poetic descriptions. Despite that, I enjoyed the novel more that I thought I would. Novels like these are rare in fantasy and especially in the urban sub genre, overrun as it is by sparkling vampires and sexy werewolves. Valente has created something special here, but it will certainly not be everybody's cup of tea.

Full Random Comments review ( )
  Valashain | Sep 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
You need a passport to enter the improbable city Palimpsest and its magical mindscapes: a map of the city tattooed in black ink somewhere on your body. But to receive the mark, first you must have sex with someone who already bears one. ... Too obsessive and self-involved to hold universal appeal, with characters resembling visitors from somebody else's recurring dreamscape.

added by melonbrawl | editKirkus Reviews (Jan 1, 2009)

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Catherynne Valenteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beltran, CarlosCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Look how the floor of heaven

Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:

There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st

But in his motion like an angel sings

Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;

Such harmony is in immortal souls;

But, whilst this muddy vesture of decay

Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.

--William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
For Dmitri, the map by which I found this place
First words
On the corner of 16th Street and Hieratica a factory sings and sighs.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Back cover copy:
Between life and death, dreaming and waking, at the train stop beyond the end of the world is the city of Palimpsest. To get there is a miracle, a mystery, a gift, and a curse - a voyage permitted only to those who've always believed there's another world than the one that meets the eye. Those fated to make the passage are marked forever by a map of that wondrous city tattooed on their flesh after a single orgasmic night.
To this kingdom of ghost trains, lion-priests, living kanji, and cream-filled canals come four travelers: Oleg, a New York locksmith; the beekeeper November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a young Japanese woman named Sei. They've each lost something important - a wife, a lover, a sister, a direction in life - and what they will find in Palimpsest is more than they could ever imagine.
Haiku summary
A city of dreams

But to see all its wonders

A price must be paid


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"Between life and death, dreaming and waking, at the train stop beyond the end of the world is the city of Palimpsest. To get there is a miracle, a mystery, a gift, and a curse -- a voyage permitted only to those who've always believed there's another world than the one that meets the eye. Those fated to make the passage are marked forever by a map of that wondrous city tattooed on their flesh after a single orgasmic night." To this erotic and fantastic kingdom come Oleg, a New York locksmith; a beekeper, November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a Japanese woman named Sei, each of whom has lost something important in their lives. -- Publisher info.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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