The Fifty Year Swordby Mark Z. Danielewski
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… See more details below
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.
—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.”
“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.”
“Absorbing, spooky, and playful.”
“A sometimes arid, sometimes entertaining ghost story for grown-ups by pomo laureate Danielewski. . . .
Likely destined to become a cult favorite.”
“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.”
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.52(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.18(d)
Read an Excerpt
“The Social Worker had mentioned other
“but that night
Chintana saw no sign of any more.
“Maybe the incresiating cold
“or the peculiar threat of a storm
“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
“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
“than the darkness itself.
“Most would’ve denied the sight with a turn,
“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,
“she welcomed him.
“ ‘The orphans’
“was all he said.
“And Chintana showed him the way.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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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
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.
An amazing novel. Best read out loud like the ghost story it is, it doesn't take more than an hour. Phenomenal stuff.
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?
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.
Great book! Very interesting and a FUN read!
Great as a ghost story! The problem is you are paying for a book. Every other page is blank, and of the pages that do exist theyhave a paragraph worth of text. Had great promise, but $12.00 for a twenty minute story is just not worth it.
theres only about 20 pages of text, the rest is a kids picture book. garbage.