Friday, March 18, 2016

Speak Easy, by Catherynne M. Valente

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(1920s Urban Fantasy) In a 1920s Harlem hotel, the party never stops. Frankie wants to be a writer, and he wants Zelda. Zelda finds a door to another world and thinks she'll find what she wants down there. (31,600 words; Time: 1h:45m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

"," by , published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: Frankie, of course, is F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Zelda is his wife. The timeline is off slightly, but the similarities are too numerous to be a coincidence.

The main strength of this story is the sophisticated writing. The richly descriptive sentences drip with elevated vocabulary, almost-forgotten 1920s slang, and clever allusions to history, mythology, and literature. For example, on the first page we're told they have "twelve she-goats descended straight down from the girl who gave her tit to a Titan," after the myth of Amalthea, who suckled the infant Zeus.

Obviously this is a story of people doing deals with fairies, complete with an endless party in Faerie from which most people can never escape.

Frankie wanted to be a great writer and to overcome his inability to finish his stories. He gets that, and he gets Zelda too, although both come at a terrible price.

Zelda wanted to be good at something, and she finally learns it was writing, but Frankie wins/steals it from her. Again, she got what she wanted, but at an awful price.

Con: Those rich sentences really become a drag after a while. It's like eating a whole box of chocolates all at once. There are way too many characters who don't seem to do much in the story, and too many curiosities (like the talking bear) that are introduced only to come to nothing. There's an awful lot of decoration for very little story.

The story seems to be a little confused about the timeline. At one point we're told it's Christmas week of 1924, but in another we're told the stock market crash is 2 years away.

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