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Palimpsest: A Novel by Catherynne Valente

Palimpsest: A Novel (edition 2009)

by Catherynne Valente (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,0565912,298 (3.82)1 / 106
"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)
Title:Palimpsest: A Novel
Authors:Catherynne Valente (Author)
Info:Spectra (2009), Edition: Original, 367 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente

  1. 40
    Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock (kalexa)
  2. 30
    Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (PhoenixFalls)
  3. 30
    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.
  4. 00
    Ink: The Book of All Hours by Hal Duncan (lottpoet)
  5. 00
    The Duke in His Castle by Vera Nazarian (ligature)

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Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
Alas, not for me. Too much weird and wonder, not enough purpose, though I like the air of desperation and the idea of a sexually-transmitted city.
  cupiscent | Aug 3, 2019 |
I had to power through this one because it was due back at the library and I couldn't renew it because it was on hold. Not my ideal reading conditions. I think I've covered a lot of what I think in my previous updates. I quite liked this book, although it had some flaws. It also had a whole lot of unsexy sex, which maybe worked for the author because of symbolism, but seemed somewhat unnecessary to me. I really liked the story of each character, though, for the most part (maybe not Oleg's entirely), and the symbolism in each of their narratives. And of course, Valente's imagery is masterful and unique. ( )
  xiaomarlo | Apr 17, 2019 |
Valente spins out a fantastic world here, weaving a story about four people and a city, a city so strange and otherworldly admission is only gained by having sex with someone with a part of the city tattooed on their skin. Mmm, soooo romantic.

Also, one can only enter those parts of the city that have been tattooed on their partner(s). But Palimpsest is so compelling that people will do anything with anyone all the time to get access to it.

This is a great concept, my problem is that the whole thing was overwritten (and dare I say oversexed?*) to the extreme. I gather that's her style, and I can really get into purple prose, sometimes, but I feel like Valente really could have used an anchor and a strict editing hand now and again.

I feel like such an evil school teacher for saying that, because I'm sure there were more than a few individuals who tried very hard to quash young Catherynne's talent before it bloomed. The lady is doubtlessly haunted by red ink. But her results really are beautiful**, it just felt like her detailed creation kept outweighing the story and any attempts at characterization, beyond the usual "the setting is a character in itself" fashion. All of the character's little quirks and actions and thoughts sounded the same.

So, fantasy lovers, read this if you don't mind a lot of noodling about. Prose and otherwise***. Please, don't mind my immature footnotes, my dad was complaining the other day about how many movies and shows are ruined by the sexy bits, so I've had sexy bits on the brain.


*No, scratch that. Keep the sexy bits in.

**Did I mention the sexy bits? There's sexy bits.

***Hurr hurr. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
The best part of this book was when she referenced a character from another one of her own books. ( )
  gossamerchild88 | Mar 30, 2018 |
I admit it. It took me quite a while to get into this book. I'd read a bit, then put it down for days, then struggle to remember who everyone was when I picked it up again. There was just so much strangeness to this story. I didn't know what I was doing there.

I guess it was Sei and her love of trains who I fell in love with first. Then, once I got a little footing in the story, I couldn't put it down.

This is a very grown-up story of Fairyland, with complicated rules of who can get in and how, and even more complicated rules of appropriate behavior once you get there. There were already similarities to Valente's intermediate reader Fairyland series that I was noticing even before November revealed her connection to September from The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland..., a book which wasn't to be published until two years after this one was. An interesting universe crossover.

Looking back on the book later, I do feel like there were some holes, questions I wish had been answered in explaining the story of the city. Why Casimira... Well, a lot of things about Casimira.

Anyway, my admiration for Valente grows. Very soon after finishing this, I went out and bought the next book in the Fairyland series for Jefferson (me). ( )
  greeniezona | Dec 6, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (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 editionscalculated
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.)
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Haiku summary
A city of dreams
But to see all its wonders
A price must be paid

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