One half charming children's story, one half deeply disturbing alternate-world horror. But then, that's Gaiman for you!
My first reaction as I was reading was that I couldn't wait to read it to my own child - but then I realized it would probably have given me nightmares before the age of 8 or so. Sure, I was reading Tolkein by then, but there's a big difference psychologically between giant spiders tying you up and finding fake versions of your parents with black buttons sewn on in place of eyes.
A lovely, lovely story, though, full of personal empowerment and the importance of trusting your gut. Read it in the bookstore; must acquire personal copy soon.
14. The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant
I think tygeressdenacht was the first of many people who have been telling me to read this book for a year or two now. Why did it take me so long?!
For those two or three of you who might have missed it, The Red Tent is the life story of Dinah, the daughter of Leah and Jacob from the Old Testament, told from the women's point of view.
I can't attest to the historical accuracy, though I recognized some crossovers with the Biblical stories I remember (and those memories are sketchy at best).
I actually find myself a bit intimidated at the idea of delving into cultural and religious analysis, as I don't doubt queenofhalves and qos could blow me out of the water. But. It was really really cool, and to my mind stayed well away from over-idealization of pre-Jewish culture.
What it brought to life best was the complexity of the extended family dynamic, and what it would be like to grow up with four mothers and dozens of siblings. To someone who really prefers the tribal/communal lifestyle (even extreme introvert that I am), it was very poignant to see such a life laid out in all of its richness and sorrow.
15. Moonlight and Vines, by Charles de Lint
On the one hand, it's just another Newford story collection, with nothing in particular to make it stand out from the rest of his work - on the other hand, you can't really say "just another" about anything by de Lint. His books have this bizarrely ephemeral quality - I can specifically remember so few of the stories, practically none as standing out as a really amazing story, but in their fading they leave the ghost of a place and people that remain magically, impossibly real.
His work is urban fantasy, concentrating on the jagged edge between the grit and despair of mundane life and the wonder and adventure of faerie - but it transcends the genre like... like... if you enjoyed Firefly, it's kind of like the way that show transcended both Westerns and science fiction. It is quintessentially that genre, but saying that's all it is diminishes it.
(And that could lead me off onto my standard rant about how genre fiction is frequently mocked as being nothing but the gimmick, when the good stuff takes the gimmick and writes the story about what happens to people because of it, but I'll leave that for another time.)
Any other de Lint fans out there know if someone's put together a timeline of what stories and collections happen when? Some of the progressions are relatively obvious, but others are more obscure, and I know I'm picking these up all out of order.
Coming soon: just finished re-reading Permutation City by Greg Egan. Just started Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay. And one of these days I'll get around to finishing Perdurabo.