The Labyrinth, by Catherynne M. Valente – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Labyrinth, by Catherynne M. Valente. Introduction by Jeff VanderMeer.
Germantown, MD, Prime Books, April 2006, hardcover $29.95 (181 [+1] pages).
The introduction and blurbs emphasize this slim novel’s surrealism. Publishers Weekly reviewed it as, “…a female Theseus details the bizarre landscape of the Minotaur’s maze and its unique flora and fauna. […] Readers who luxuriate in the telling of a tale and savor phrases where every word has significance will enjoy the challenge of this fantasy. Others may find its maze of language an impenetrable mystery.”
You can put me among those who find its maze of language an impenetrable mystery. The jacket-flap blurb is, “A lyrical anti-quest through a conscious maze without center, borders, or escape–a dark pilgrim’s progress through a landscape of vicious Angels, plague houses, crocodile-prophets, tragic chess-sets, and the mind of an unraveling woman, driven on by the mocking guide who seeks to destroy as much as save.” The book’s murky cover by Aurélien Police fits it wonderfully. Can you tell what this is about?
But The Labyrinth is undeniably richly anthropomorphic. The nameless (or manynamed) narrator wanders through a maze filled with Doors. Each opens into a different dimension that threatens to sidetrack her from the Labyrinth’s end. And many are inhabited by an anthropomorphic animal.