The Fifty Year Sword book review

Mark Z Danielewski

Book review, Time In

Danielewski’s experimental texts offer either elaborate, maddening gimmickry or a revolution in literature. Regardless of what side you’re on, you’ll have to agree that the author puts more thought into the physical design of his fictions – the tome of swirling text that was House of Leaves and the National Book Award-nominated double narrative Only Revolutions – than some writers put into entire books.

Danielewski’s latest, a modified reprint of a novella whose initial printing was only 1,000 copies, is his easiest to digest. Nursing wounds of spousal betrayal, seamstress Chintana attends the 50th birthday party of her rival, Belinda Kite, and winds up playing babysitter for five orphans. A storyteller, invited to entertain the children, tells an inappropriately dark tale about his ‘black-hearted’ quest for a special weapon that he just may have in a latched case beside him. The hook here: Danielewski echoes the oral tradition of ghost stories by employing the voices of the five orphans to take turns narrating.

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