I owe Charlene Brusso of Tachyon Publications for bringing Wonders of the Invisible World into my line of sight. I contacted her about getting an advance copy of The Emperor’s Soul, a new book by Brandon Sanderson, which she graciously sent me. Then she asked if I would like advances of two collections: Wonders of the Invisible World and Epic. I answered in the affirmative and she sent them along as well. I’m grateful for her suggestion, as I wouldn’t have picked them up otherwise. This cover art by Thomas Canty doesn’t grab me the same way the captivating cover of The Stress of Her Regard stopped me dead in my catalog-perusing tracks, but it is a lovely fit for these enchanting stories by Patricia A. McKillip. She’s a multiple-award winning author, but I must confess my ignorance of her writing until now. This isn’t the sort of book I would pick up in my own short-sightedness; it’s also the sort of magical realism I truly enjoy. It’s the magic burbling up from the timeless wells deep under the earth. It’s the magic just below the surface of a painting or a pool. It’s the unseen magic of the ordinary that is more believable than the scientific explanation of a phenomenon. It’s the ancient magic of youth. It’s the magic of creation and curses. It’s the magic just beyond our view, and I’m glad to have caught a glimpse of it.
Archive for Tim Powers
According to Keats, “The excellence of every Art is its intensity.” To this I would add the mark of an excellent work of art is in its implicitly directing you to others of its kind. As such The Stress of Her Regard is excellent, in that it lead me, like Michael Crawford, to explore Keats, Shelley, and Byron. My second reading was therefore far better informed (from reading their letters in particular). In some respects this was unveiling the man behind the curtain, but it served to transform the fascination of a reader into the admiration of a writer. I also took some satisfaction in being able to visualize Byron’s fencing maneuvers this time, as I took an elementary fencing class shortly after my first reading. After reading “A Time to Cast Away Stones” I paid particular attention to Edward John Trelawny the second time through. The Stress of Her Regard is intense and excellent and remains one of my all-time favorites!
The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers is one of my favorite books, so I was decidedly intrigued when I learned that he had written a postscript novella, A Time to Cast Away Stones. Tachyon Publications has released a new collection of stories by Powers, including the novella, entitled The Bible Repairman and Other Stories. I was tempted to jump straight to the end to read the novella, but I opted to save the best for last. Upon reading I found that the introduction by the author and his comments on each story’s inception may in fact be the best part of this fascinating collection! The stories are wonderful (I particularly enjoyed “A Soul in a Bottle”), but the aspiring author in me was thrilled with the vignettes which accompanied each tale. The notion that a story could originate with the author’s frustration at being born two years after the death of a celebrated poet appealed to the creative-destructive dark vein in me.
Powers found inspiration in the exploits of Edward John Trelawny for A Time to Cast Away Stones. Trelawny was acquainted with Byron and Shelley, and made an appearance in The Stress of Her Regard. He greatly embellished his own role in history, so it is fitting that Powers took one of his truly unusual adventures and incorporated it into the supernatural realm of the nephelim. Just as The Stress of Her Regard prompted me to read the works of Keats, Byron, and Shelley, so A Time to Cast Away Stones has piqued my curiosity in Powers’ as-yet-untitled new novel featuring Trelawny in his later years.
Fans of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (such as myself) sit up and take note: Tachyon Publications has reissued The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers. Originally published in 1989, this is a dark, decadent, Romantic fantasy. That’s Romantic with a capital R, as Byron, Keats, and Shelley are all characters in this immensely imagined and thoroughly researched novel. The protagonist, one Michael Crawford, is carousing the night before his wedding when he places his intended’s ring on the finger of a marble statue for safe keeping. His intentions fail his intended; she is brutally murdered on their wedding night. Crawford flees from the authorities and his ghastly memories straight into the company of the poets and the demonic nephelim which regard them. In exchange for inspiring their greatest literary works, the nephelim (or lamia) preserve their lives while demolishing the lives of everyone they hold dear. Many authors have noted that there is blood on their pages; in The Stress of Her Regard Powers takes that metaphor to its furthest extent. This book is utterly fantastic. I’m placing it in my top ten, and I’m going to brush up on my Keats and Shelley to see if I can trace the incredible connections which Powers made into a phenomenal novel.