The OF Blog: Review of Catherynne M. Valente's Yume no Hon

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Review of Catherynne M. Valente's Yume no Hon

For many people, dreams are the stuff of our innermost selves. They entice us, tempt us, draw us forth, before pulling us back from the brink of destruction. We wallow in them, seek them out, aim to manipulate or to control them, making something intelligible out of what seems nonsensical. Dreams evoke memories and impressions and perhaps in no other way do we live as much as when we dream and relate those dreamings to others.

Catherynne M. Valente, in her 2005 book, Yume no Hon: The Book of Dreams (published by Prime Books) has a series of short (rarely more than two pages in length) dream-like impressions that revolve (or at least so it appears at first) around the Mountain. The titles of these impressions, which like their namesake dreams are ever mutable, are taken from the Japanese calendar and there is a sense of a greater story behind the events of these dreamings that has much more to do with the myths and legends of that country than they do with our own rich past and its legends.

Readers of her 2006 WFA-nominated work, The Orphan's Tale: In the Night Garden, will recognize some of the storytelling techniques that she used in that excellent work, while those new to Valente perhaps will be struck by her expert command of the English language and how adroitly she works in all these hints of a deeper mythological past in ways that will surprise often even the most well-read of readers of those myths. Although Yume no Hon is much smaller (at a slim 150 pages) than her 2006 release, it perhaps will serve as an easier introduction to her beautiful and complex tale-weaving style, as there are not as many threads with which to keep track. However, I highly, highly suggest that readers read both Yume no Hon and the other Valente work that I mention above, especially if you enjoy losing yourself into a story that is so beautifully written and devised as Valente's.

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