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The Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z. Danielewski

The Fifty Year Sword

by Mark Z. Danielewski

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I didn't like this nearly as much as House of Leaves, though it's obviously a far less ambitious novel. This is a pretty simple tale, actually, with a kind of fairy tale quality. As I understand it, it was originally performed by a chorus in a theater in Los Angeles, which makes me think that maybe it just doesn't translate very well into book form. The story is narrated simultaneously by five voices, which are distinguished by five different autumnally-colored quotation marks. I didn't see much point to this, but I did imagine that it could work really well in performance. In addition, in the book the text is all on the even-numbered pages, with the facing pages reserved for images. The images in the original edition were stitched with thread, but in subsequent editions are color illustrations, kind of abstract representations of images from the story. But these material devices aren't integral to the narrative the way that the devices of House of Leaves are, so they feel a little gimmicky. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
I really enjoyed this. Not only is it fun to read, the author does what he does best with his unique writing style. This reads like poetry and is mixed with the back of cross stitching making it literary art. I can see why many people would be frustrated reading this, but knowing ahead of time the unconventional writing style made it quite enjoyable for me. Now i just need the time to tackle the rest of his other book "House of Leaves", but i think that will have to wait for my next time off work. ( )
  yougotamber | Aug 22, 2014 |
Haunting. ( )
  outlandishlit | Jun 9, 2014 |
Really more a concept than an actual story/book, Mark Z. Danielewski's The Fifty Year Sword is a horror story, of sorts. The story is told from the point of view of five children, in one long stream of conscious dialogue, with the only distinction about which child is speaking made through the color of the quotation marks set around each sentence. It almost reads as one large, run-on paragraph, so it would seem that the children almost speak in a collective, each continuing the sentence from the previous speaker. I gave up fairly quickly trying to determine who was speaking and just read through the story as if it were being told from just one person.

The story, as it were, is simple enough (and is really nothing more than a glorified short story drawn out into a 280+ page book). The five children are at a Halloween party when a stranger arrives carrying a long black box. The story the stranger tells is of the Fifty Year Sword, and his journey to acquire it. What follows is a display of the power of the sword, much to the dismay of one of the party goers. And that's it. The story the stranger tells is vaguely atmospheric, but the ending is reasonably predictable given the outcome of the strangers journey and his story.

About the length of the book. As I stated earlier, it's a glorified short story, and all the text in the book is presented on the left-hand page only. If there is some significance to this placement, it went above my head. I'd be willing to bet there aren't more than 40 words per page, and pages with that much text are few and far between. This was released as an ebook as well, and I think that the ebook had animated graphics and music accompanying it, so I think this was meant to be viewed on an ereader as opposed to something actually physically published. The story has also been performed lived, on Halloween, as a shadow show, and I have a feeling this is where the true impact of the story would be felt, but presented in this static, printed format, the story falls short.

I don't think I'd actually recommend this book to anyone except those that enjoy uniquely published works that have physical distinction that sets them apart from other physical books, which is the only reason I'm keeping this in my library. ( )
  tapestry100 | Sep 30, 2013 |
New book from House of Leaves guy sounds crazy!
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
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"The nationally best-selling author of House of Leaves and Only Revolutions has crafted a powerfully chilling novella--a ghost story for grownup readers. Late one evening at a party at an East Texas ranch house, five orphans gather to hear a story about a quest for a terrible weapon. Before them lies a long black box with five latches. As the owner of the box settles into a curious tale of revenge, the children grow more and more captivated, even as we grow more and more afraid that a new crime may await them all, especially as clocks in Upshur County approach midnight"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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