The Fifty Year Sword

( 8 )

Overview

In this story set in East Texas, a local seamstress named Chintana finds herself responsible for five orphans who are not only captivated by a storyteller’s tale of vengeance but by the long black box he sets before them. As midnight approaches, the box is opened, a fateful dare is made, and the children as well as Chintana come face to face with the consequences of a malice retold and now foretold.

Read More Show Less
...
See more details below
Hardcover
$17.94
BN.com price
(Save 31%)$26.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (39) from $4.22   
  • New (17) from $6.98   
  • Used (22) from $4.22   

Overview

In this story set in East Texas, a local seamstress named Chintana finds herself responsible for five orphans who are not only captivated by a storyteller’s tale of vengeance but by the long black box he sets before them. As midnight approaches, the box is opened, a fateful dare is made, and the children as well as Chintana come face to face with the consequences of a malice retold and now foretold.

Read More Show Less
  • The Fifty Year Sword
    The Fifty Year Sword  

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Always unconventional, ever experimental novelist Mark Danielewski (House of Leaves; Only Revolutions) reemerges with The Fifty-Year Sword, a novella which has been percolating since at least 2005. Not easily described, the adult ghost story masquerading as a children's tale invites us to join a birthday party that features a solicitous, somewhat overwhelmed seamstress; the mistress of her ex-husband; a band of unruly orphans; and a storyteller who arrives with a magical weapon. More easily enjoyed than explained.

The Washington Post
Mark Z. Danielewski's unhallowed novella is a narrative trick-or-treat for readers who like to be challenged as well as entertained…two striking qualities distinguish this eerie narrative from other ghost stories: the language and the book's design…Danielewski brings a poet's resourcefulness to this eldritch tale, brilliantly fusing the sound of Anglo-Saxon poetry to the sprung rhythms of Gerard Manley Hopkins, all the while making our flesh creep. And as in his first novel, the magnificent House of Leaves (2000), he makes creative use of typography…the novel is as entrancing to look at as to read…[and] gives further evidence that Danielewski is one of the most gifted and versatile writers of our time.
—Steven Moore
Publishers Weekly
This first American edition of Danielewski’s novella, published in a different form in the Netherlands in 2005, has the theatrical quality of a children’s ghost story, complete with stitched-art illustrations (designed by the author), sweeping themes, and fairy-tale tropes. But the tale told by the Story Teller, hired to entertain the children, is nested in the all-too adult story of Chintana, a seamstress suffering through the aftermath of a painful divorce. The smallest daily rituals—opening a can of “bitter tea leaves,” putting on shoes—require terrific force, and she has visions of inflicting violence. At her twin’s urging, Chintana attends a Halloween party at an East Texas ranch, where she comes face-to-face with the source of her marriage’s destruction and discovers the Story Teller’s thirst for revenge. Danielewski (House of Leaves) knows that typographical landscaping can be a narrative tool. With rare exception, he unfurls his tale down one side of the page in quoted speech of different colors representing five orphans whose obscure connection is hinted at in an author’s note; text is juxtaposed or shares space with illustrations. Tension builds visually; some scenes slows to a sentence per page (a trick the author’s fans will recognize), vertically tearing the white space (readers resistant to textual hijinks may be frustrated). More of a narrative poem than a novella, this would be well suited to an oral reading and may be best thought of as an objet d’art that chillingly holds us accountable for our worst thoughts. Illus. Agent: WME Entertainment. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
The Fifty Year Sword is a clever experiment in voice and structure, a prose poem consisting of cascading waves of dialogue spoken by five different narrators looking back on a single frightening night. . . . The joy of the book comes mostly from the physical act of turning the pages and scanning the layout, but the language deserves mention as well. In fact, some of the diction and words echo Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” or James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, as separate words and phrases collide to make one and bits of words rearrange to form new ones. . . . A rare treat for devoted book lovers.” 
The Boston Globe

“This gorgeous trade edition . . . gives further evidence that Danielewski is one of the most gifted and versatile writers of our time.”
The Washington Post

“[A] captivating atmospheric journey, one that defies the norm of just reading a book. Danielewski, like his undeniably creepy and possibly ethereal antagonist, isn’t merely a storyteller. He creates experiences, multi-dimensional pieces of art that don’t conform to one genre, and that beg for physical engagement from the audience. The Fifty Year Sword follows in the tradition of Henry James’ ‘The Turn Of The Screw’ and the work of Washington Irving, but in a distinctly postmodern context. It’s a beautifully haunting, resonant multimedia adventure.” 
The A.V. Club

“A seriously experimental confection of modern horror literature. . . . Composed mostly of dialogue, some attributed to various speakers, some not, some near-abstract drawings of needlework constructions, and a lot of white space—all wrapped in the pages of a very classy piece of book production—The Fifty Year Sword might be the oddest book of the year. In certain ways, it might be the most interesting and enjoyable. . . . I imagine people getting together late at night and, as they read the book aloud, conjuring up this East Texas night, in which immediate danger and antique fairy-tale horror come together, joined by the slender threads of this one-of-a-kind narrative genius, a writer a lot closer to Edgar Allan Poe than he is to most of his contemporaries.”
—Alan Cheuse, Dallas Morning News
 
“Danielewski echoes the oral tradition of ghost stories by employing the voices of five orphans to take turns narrating. . . . The writing itself occasionally hits on a detail disturbing enough to fall like freezing water down the reader’s spine.”
Time Out New York
 
“I entered The Fifty Year Sword prepared to be bewildered, but . . . we’re drawn into the narrative. . . . A goth hero’s quest . . . a fairy tale narrated by a Greek chorus. . . . Mark Z. Danielewski might be America’s most successful experimental fiction writer.” 
—Daniel Handler, The New York Times Book Review

“A swift, old-style ghost story with crisp, eerie illustrations. The text itself becomes blade cuts. The tale’s momentum and dark tone take over, speeding the story to its surprise end. . . . The Fifty Year Sword is a pleasure to read.”
Chicago Tribune
 
“This strange novella is a new spin on Poe-esque ghost stories, and is being delivered in its new form full of beautiful (and sometimes beautifully grotesque) stitched illustrations, the colors of Halloween's season, and typography that actively follows what happens within the story. And so The Fifty Year Sword continues with Mark Z. Danielewski’s explorations of the art of visual storytelling, and what's on the line when it comes time to tell (or re-tell) a story.”
Lit Reactor

“Absorbing, spooky, and playful.”
Library Journal
 
“A sometimes arid, sometimes entertaining ghost story for grown-ups by pomo laureate Danielewski. . . .
Likely destined to become a cult favorite.”
Kirkus Reviews

“This first American edition of Danielewski’s novella, published in a different form in the Netherlands in 2005, has the theatrical quality of a children’s ghost story, complete with stitched-art illustrations (designed by the author), sweeping themes, and fairy-tale tropes . . . This would be well-suited to an oral reading and may be best thought of as an objet d’art that chillingly holds us accountable for our worst thoughts.”
Publisher's Weekly

Library Journal
In this brief, dark tale, Chintana attends a Halloween party where she encounters Belinda Kite, the woman who stole her husband, as well as five orphans. A mysterious stranger arrives carrying a box and tells a story about his travels around the world in search of a special weapon. The journey takes the teller through haunted regions until he finds a weapons dealer with an unusual set of swords. Some are capable of killing the sense of smell or taste, others certain colors, and still others take lives. The narrator is sold a sword in exchange for a memory, and when he concludes his story, the five children open the box he has brought. Chintana senses the children are in danger, but then her nemesis, Belinda, intervenes. VERDICT Absorbing, spooky, and playful, with copious illustrations but minimalist text, the narrative consists of a series of quotations from five narrators whose history is given in an ominous prelude that may or may not explain just what is going on. Shorter than the author's other two novels (House of Leaves; Only Revolutions), this new work offers a less demanding introduction to his unusual literary creations. [See Prepub Alert, 4/9/12.]—Jim Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
A sometimes arid, sometimes entertaining ghost story for grown-ups by pomo laureate Danielewski (House of Leaves, 2000, etc.). Chintana is in a bad mood. A talented seamstress, she's just been divorced, "forced/to acknowledge,/yet again,/to yet/another insitrusive customer,/her husband Pravat's surprising/departure." The odd portmanteau "insitrusive," apparently a blend of "insistent" and "intrusive," is emblematic; Danielewski likes nothing better than to make up words, with some coinages better than others. (The world flat-out does not need the verb "reconsiderate.") The odd hiccup-y breaks and caesuras also attest to Danielewski's method, which is to break what ought to be prose down into a sort-of-poetry--not terribly good poetry, that, and oddly punctuated, but still inhibiting a reader tempted to skim and speed. Chintana is stuck in East Texas, that grim place of horrors, her time spent in a house that has had more than one spectral guest in the past. Here, as with House of Leaves, Danielewski distinguishes speakers with quotation marks of different colors; even there, the jumble of words, matched by fugitive images, lends itself to a certain confusion, the printed effect of listening too closely to the dialogue of Robert Altman's Popeye. The story, as it is, has its charms, including the implement of the title, a very dangerous weapon that is powerless to produce a visible wound until its recipient turns 50: "Just as/quickly too he slid behind/me and I/felt a sting between/my shoulder blades/and then a fire and a cold and a sudden/something/seep of hurt." The spectral events and unspectral revelations that follow are sure not to improve Chintana's mood. After all, she's already feeling "desacreated." Like House of Leaves, likely destined to become a cult favorite. Harmless fun for those who aren't fans already.
Library Journal
The setting is decidedly thrillerish: in an East Texas ranch house, five orphans listen attentively to a story about a weapon quest, even as a big black box with five latches looms before them. But given that Danielewski is the author of books like the cutting-edge House of Leaves, don't expect standard, thrillerish writing.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307907721
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/16/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 196,893
  • Product dimensions: 5.52 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Z.  Danielewski

Mark Z. Danielewski was born in New York City and lives in Los Angeles. He is the author of House of Leaves, Only Revolutions and The Whalestoe Letters.

Biography

Mark Z. Danielewski was born in New York City and now lives in Los Angeles. He is the author of House of Leaves and Only Revolutions.

Author biography courtesy of Pantheon Books.

Good To Know

Danielewski is the son of Polish avant-garde film director Tad Danielewski and the brother of singer-songwriter Annie Decatur Danielewski, a.k.a. Poe.

In 2000, Danielewski toured with Poe across America to promote his sister's record Haunted, which mirrors themes in his debut novel, House of Leaves.

He served as an assistant editor of Derrida, a documentary film about the French literary critic and philosopher Jacques Derrida.

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 5, 1966
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Yale University, 1988; M.F.A., University of Southern California, 1993
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

“The Social Worker had mentioned other
          “youngens
                              “but that night
Chintana saw no sign of any more.
    “Maybe the incresiating cold
                                             “or the peculiar threat of a storm
                                            “or Belinda
Kite’s birthday
                      “had turned parents from wrestling with seat belts and car seats—
           “—from those oh so
                                            “many lists of baby sitters tacked conveniently by a phone.
 
    “Chintana rubbed the violet line on her thumb as a woman with topaz clamped on her ears burst past her towards a small bathroom tucked under the main stairs.
 
    “ ‘Such a hateful whore,’ the woman sputstuttersobbed to Chintana,
                                             “to no one in particular,
                   “diving for the comforts of lock and running water.
 
    “Whereupon Chintana’s thumb abruptly began to sore a little
                                         “and she felt bleak,
                “as if a thousand
                                       “vengeances upon vengeances were dicing her suddenly
               “into hail.

    “Though the cause was none too mysterous
                 “—the front door just stood wide open.
                          “Though when it had been flung so Chintana would never remember.
 
    “The porch lights were extinguished too, oddly,
               “and what’s more a shadow now cut across the threshold,
                                            “though without moon or stars in the Texas sky this was an awful impossibility,
                                               “for here reaching towards her it seemed was a shadow cast by nothing
                                        “other
                                                   “than the darkness itself.
 
    “Most would’ve denied the sight with a turn,
                    “a cry,
                                             “flight,

“but maybe because Chintana too, day out and night in, could so easily consider doing the same,
                       “what would leave these rooms drenched in silence,
                                       “and blood,
“she welcomed him.
 
“ ‘The orphans’
                        “was all he said.

“And Chintana showed him the way.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(2)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2012

    Confused

    Bought the book. It only goes to page 12. There simply is not any more. Was I supposed to do something on one of the pages? Did anyone else have this problem?

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2012

    Freaking Fantastic

    This book has so many layers to it. I have read and re-read it again and again. I cannot get enough. A new layer peels back for me every time I open the book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The Fifty Year Sword  Mark Z. Danielewski  Hardcover  Pantheon,

    The Fifty Year Sword 
    Mark Z. Danielewski 
    Hardcover 
    Pantheon, Random House 
    285 pages 
    Genre: Fantasy/Horror 
    ISBN: 978-0-307-90772-1 

         Mark Z. Danielewski does not write novels. He creates experimental visual art that morphs into and weaves through each of his brilliant stories. The playful and unique way he approaches every one of his books is remarkably inventive and what he creates is unlike any other writer working today. His other works, House of Leaves and Only Revolutions, have been characterized as visual writing or Ergodic literature and The Fifty Year Sword is no exception. Yet, if we strip away the word play, the colored words, quotes, and paragraphs, the book flipping, side-bars, stitchery, typography, and marginalia what we find at the core of every one of those books is an entertaining tale. And isn’t that what we, as readers, ultimately crave? 

         Experiencing, or participating in, one of his stories (notice I did not say “reading”) is a unique entertainment. This is the third distinctive “piece of art” of his that I've read in the past few years and still, all I can think to say is that this is another totally amazing piece of creative genius. The Fifty Year Sword is not so much a linear novel as a patchwork piece of poetic dialogue that when stitched together creates a dark, unnatural, and malevolent story. Mr. Danielewski plays with words like a master poet and some of his creations are brilliant - "a sudden blue jay avirarity," "gratefullyaccepatating," "consecawence," "sputstuttersobbed," and “s/word.”  These are only a few of the more mischievous phrases you’ll find here yet, in context, they flow into the story and feel as if they’ve always been part of the English language.

         In addition to the manipulation of language and the compelling story the book is filled with colored line stitching, needle punching, embroidery, and fabric art - the main character is a seamstress - making The Fifty Year Sword not only a pleasure to read but visually pleasing to touch, view, and experience, as well.

         The first twenty pages or so set the tone, describe the scene, and introduce the main characters but when a mysterious Story Teller arrives at a Halloween Party and begins to weave his cunning tale The Fifty Year Sword comes to life. Five children and two adults assemble to hear the entertainment provided by the host. The Story Teller speaks of his search for an uncommon weapon, though he never tells us why. No knife, rope, explosive, or gun will do. The weapon he needs has to be extraordinary. One day he meets a homeless man who tells him of a weapon maker of unusual skill who sells curious tools of destruction but “never for money.” The Story Teller begins his quest to find this mysterious artisan of arms because he knows this man has exactly what he seeks. 

         The Story Teller travels from the Valley of Salt, to the Forest of Falling Notes, to the Mountain of Manyone Paths, hunting for the uncommon weapon he so desperately covets. And when he finds the weapon maker, a man with no arms (pun intended?), he barters "A memory you have which would have outlived you" for a Fifty Year Sword which causes no physical damage until the last second of the fiftieth year to whoever is struck. 

         And the Story Teller, a “bad man with a black heart” has come to this party to kill.... 

         Of course, I'll not spoil the best part of the story except to say that the circuitous ending which is somewhat expected happens in a completely unpredictable and surprising manner to an unsuspecting character. 

         File with: E. E. Cummings, blood and gore, word-play, Stephen King, experimental textile art, poetry, The Brothers Grimm, visual writing, and stitchery. (Did I really just say stitchery?) 


    5 out of 5 stars 

    The Alternative 
    Southeast Wisconsin 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2012

    An amazing novel. Best read out loud like the ghost story it is,

    An amazing novel. Best read out loud like the ghost story it is, it doesn't take more than an hour. Phenomenal stuff.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 2, 2014

    An entertaining read

    This book is not for readers who need the traditional way a book is written.That is sentences forming orderly paragraphs,not that book doesn't have words forming orderly paragraphs.This book does tell a good and entertaining short that you'll need to finish.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 13, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    theres only about 20 pages of text, the rest is a kids picture b

    theres only about 20 pages of text, the rest is a kids picture book. garbage.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 26, 2013

    Great book! Very interesting and a FUN read!

    Great book! Very interesting and a FUN read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 8 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)