Thursday, July 03, 2008

Illustrating Marjorie

One of the stories I loved as a kid was a Japanese folktale called The Boy Who Drew Cats. In the version I read, the monster was a demon, not a giant rat, and the illustrations of the boy drawing his cats on the walls of the temple were especially divine. It was an exotic, exciting tale, and the notion that something drawn on paper could (under the right circumstances) come to life thoroughly charmed me.

The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. LiuMuch as I loved that folktale, I haven't thought about it in years, until I read The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu. Protagonist and demon-hunter Maxine Kiss sports some very striking body art; not all that unusual until it comes to life, leaps off her skin and fights alongside her -- and that's just one small part of the magic in this novel.

Marjorie is one of the most talented novelists I know, so I always expect a great read from her. With The Iron Hunt, however, she takes that talent and her readers to a new and different level. I can't imagine what to compare it to -- the writing itself is so striking and lyrical that at times I felt I was reading poetry that had somehow shed its skin and morphed into prose. Like Maxine's tattoos, in fact (and I wish I could say that better. I've been wrestling for two days with how to describe this book and do it justice.) As with all her work, the story also has this beautiful structure and rhythm to it that is one of Marjorie's trademarks, but this time she really cranked it up. It was an amazing read, and it illustrates exactly what a phenomenal writer Marjorie M. Liu is.

You don't have to take my word for it, of course. In comments to this post, name your favorite fairytale or story from childhood (or if you had a deprived childhood where they made you read the newspaper or something, just toss your name into the hat) by midnight EST on Friday, July 4, 2008. I will draw ten names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned copy of The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

73 comments:

  1. Little Red Riding Hood. I found it disturbing but I loved it.

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  2. Kongji Pattji

    (It's an old Korean folktale / story...a bit similar to Cinderella, but with much more actively evil stepsister & stepmother.)

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  3. The old Little Mermaid, where the mermaid could walk but at a terrible price. Her feet were so sensitive it felt like she was walking on glass. My grandmother would always say...sometimes the things you most wish for will cause you more grief than happiness. LOL. It stuck with me.

    And then there was a carebear big book. I was in 1st grade and I remember sitting with all of my books in front of me, trying to figure out why I liked the carebear book more than the others. LOL. I loved to draw the characters as much as I loved reading the book. :)

    I have to check out that book!

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  4. Marjorie M Liu is a fabulous author. I've been a fan of her's ever since I discovered her book "Tiger Eye" and few years back. But I haven't gotten around to getting a copy of "The Iron Hunt" yet so I'd really to be entered to win it. And thanks! As for a favorite book from my childhood, I'd probably say it was "The Ugly Duckling".

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  5. My favourite childhood story was The Magic Pot. I had a wonderfully illustrated hardcover of it as a child, and I cried when I found out my mother had given it away.

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  6. "Ferdinand the Bull" comes to mind as one of my most favorite childhood stories. I remember in particular the delightful drawings of this massive bull in a field of flowers, delicately sniffing the blossoms.

    There's another one that's stayed with me thru the years, even though I can't remember the title. It was about a beautiful hand-carved rocking horse, with real horse-hair mane & tail, that had a kind of "Black Beauty" life ... a wonderful beginning, then some abuse & disrepair, before being salvaged and restored back to his former glory. Once again I fell in love with the artwork, and remember the rocking horse being a dappled grey.

    — Bonz

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  7. I had so many favourites I don't think I can pick one. The short story collections by Joan Aiken: All You've Ever Wanted, A Necklace of Raindrops, A Small Pinch of Weather, A Harp of Fishbones, All But A Few and many more were special. I also like very much Rosemary Harris' trilogy: The Moon in the Cloud, The Shadow on the Sun and The Bright and Morning Star

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  8. Living, fighting tattoos and lyrical prose? Sounds awesome.

    One of my favorite stories as a child was Beauty and the Beast. As I got older, I started understanding how messed up the gender roles are in that story and it fascinated me to analyze them. It was a similar experience when I discovered how dark the original Snow White story was, and how sad the original Little Mermaid story was. I liked them before I understood them, and then liked them even more when I got old enough to understand their themes.

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  9. have you read the fairy tales of oscar wilde? they are beautiful and the book i have has gorgeous illustrations as well.
    My favorite story was Snow White and Rose Red. Not many seem to have heard of the story but it deals with two sisters who lived with their mother. There's dwarves, bears, curses and magic in it. Of course the happy ever after at the end.

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  10. When I was a kid, my favorite fairytale was Puss in Boots. It had a clever cat, and great accessories--what's not to like?

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  11. I'm currently reading the full Grimm, Perrault etc. collections to my children as bedtime stories and I do love the real fairy stories (as opposed to the sanitised, Disnified versions). To pick a modern retelling of a classic, I'd take Orson Scott Card's 'Enchantment', which is the sleeping beauty story taken to a new level. But to choose a classic tale for its own sake, I'd pick Red Riding Hood - so many versions and interpretations!

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  12. There were all the traditional fairy tales but a story i realy enjoyed was the Fox and the Hound (Disney movie)

    it took me a long time to get into books - early high school so movies were good for me

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  13. Every year, on Christmas Eve, one of my older siblings would read The Night Before Christmas.

    By the time it came to me to read to my youngest sibling, I knew it by heart. I did the sound effects, some of the actions and S. sat there, entranced.

    I love that book and still have the overused, grimy, child-finger-smeared, broken-backed copy of my youth.

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  14. okay second try.

    My favorite growing up was The Little Engine that Could. Not really a fairy tale but it did have a great message of never giving up.

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  15. One of my mother's favorite stories to tell about me is that when I was 2 years old, I liked Cinderella so much that my mom read it to me every night. I could recite the entire thing at 2 years old.

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  16. Wow, two book give-aways in a row? How generous!

    Cinderella is my favorite. I also love new re-tellings of old tales. I love to see what others have done with them.

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  17. I think I'd have to say the original Grimm fairytales left a deep impression on me, and it was fun getting some of the darker versions for once.

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  18. My favorite fairy tale was and continues to be Beauty and the Beast. What I liked about that tale is looking beneath the surface to find the real beauty in a person. I continue to collect different versions of the story and I even have a copy of a PhD dissertation.

    Love Ms. Liu's work also. Also loving Twilight Fall. I just need more hours to read and less work.

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  19. I loved Kipling's Just So Stories, and my favourite was The Elephant's Child. Now I've got a young niece, and I'm rediscovering how wonderful they are to read aloud.

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  20. My dad used to invent these crazy stories for us, about a wolf named Herman and Elizabeth the elephant and all sorts of other animals. I read voraciously as a child but what I remember is his stories.

    Heather

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  21. Actually, I loved "The Boy Who Drew Cats"

    And pretty much all of the folk tales in the book "Little Pictures of Japan"

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  22. I'm going with the "not really a fairy-tale" thing also, but just a story that meant a lot to me as a kid. That was the Corduroy stories about the bear, looking for his missing button and wanting a friend.

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  23. My favourite fairy tale was probably Beauty and the Beast. I have no clue why, but something in it must have appealed to me ^^

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  24. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
    Not a fairy tale, but it has really great monsters

    Mostly I just loved having some one read to me when i was little

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  25. I had a book of Persian Fairy Tales, which I loved. Lots of fighting demons!

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  26. A Child's Garden of Verse by Robert Louis Stevenson was my favorite. I memorized several and my favorites were The Swing, My Shadow, and From a Railway Carriage. When I married and became pregnant with my first child, I remember looking at the backyards of each house we considered buying, looking for places where I could sit with my child and tell them about fairies, a place for a swing, a tree to climb. When I told my husband that it was because I wanted to give our children the kind of magical garden I'd had, he looked puzzled, and asked "Didn't your parents move all the time? Where do you remember having a garden like that?"

    That's when it occurred to me that I never had. I had memorized Mr Stevenson's poems, and they had become such an inner part of me that they seemed real. I knew then that no matter where we lived, I would alway be able to give a magical garden to my children.

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  27. My favorite fairytale was "Sleeping Beauty", not sure why and then when I was a bit older I was really in love with the book "The Phantom Tollbooth".

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  28. I was going to say that I couldn't remember any stories from my childhood, but all the others commentors reminded me of the ones I'd forgotten. Thanks everyone.

    So, let's see: Ferdinand the Bull, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Little Matchgirl, The Ugly Duckling, Little Black Sambo, The Four Chinese Brothers (if that really is the title). There were so many and it was too long ago to remember them all.

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  29. I already have my copy. *g* But my favorite childhood story was The Arabian Nights. Which is technically lots of stories, but there you go.

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  30. You must stop this! My to-be-read pile is already threatening to cause bodily harm should it topple.

    None-the-less, please add my name to the hat.

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  31. As a kid, I read and reread C.S. Lewis' "Voyage of the Dawntreader" I wore that one out in my Chronicles set more than the rest!

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  32. I love most of the tales that other people have named. I particularly enjoyed stories that forced me to weep. I read through every single Andrew Lang volume.

    Despite this, as an adult, what sticks in my mind isn't a folk story at all: it's Albert ("The Magic Pudding" - Norman Lindsay). Reading Albert's lines aloud permitted me to be rude and cheeky and a much more interesting person than I was in real life. In fact, deep down, I wanted to be the debonaire and adventurous Bunyip Bluegum and eat Albert - it's called having your pudding and eating it too.

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  33. "The Fire Cat" How amazing to my childhood self that a cat would do a dog's job. And I still love his name -- Pickles!

    It's tied with "Thunderhoof" about a horse (of course) that doesn't like being captured.

    Both are out of print but I've already went and found used copies and I'm saving them for my daughter. :)

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  34. I'd have to say growing up that "Rumpelstilskin" was one of my favorite fairy tales, that and when I was little older I got into Edgar Allen Poe -- especially the Tell Tale Heart and The Raven.

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  35. Snow White and Rose Red. I loved that one and I feel it does not get retold enough.

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  36. I guess I was a romantic since birth because it was always Cinderella for me.

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  37. Beauty and the Beast was my favorite.

    Another one that comes to mind is Where the Wild Things Are. My 7 y/o loves that book.

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  38. "the writing itself is so striking and lyrical that at times I felt I was reading poetry that had somehow shed its skin and morphed into prose"

    I felt exactly the same way about this book, just couldn't articulate it as well! MML is great. Definitely an auto-buy for me.

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  39. I haven't gotten a copy of "The Iron Hunt" yet, so I'd really love to win one.

    As for fairytales, I dont think i really had a fave. Some that come to mind though are Sleeping Beauty, Rose Red, Pied Piper, and lol on eI ca't rememebr the name of...but everyone knows it....7 cats, 7 sacks, etc.

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  40. Mrs. MJ12:04 PM

    When I was ten my dad read The Lord of The Rings out loud to me. It was really special to me.

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  41. I fell in love with Patricia Wrede's Enchanted Forest chronicle's at a young and impressionable age. I've been seeking out fractured fairy tales with smart capable heroines ever since.

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  42. Beauty and the Beast. All over.

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  43. I'm going to have to get on the Beauty and the Beast bandwagon. I really valued the idea of finding the hidden beauty in others - as well as in oneself.

    I've come across some favorite children's lit as an adult, too. (Not that I would ever read children's books at the circulation desk or anything *wink*) Bootsie Barker Bites by Bottner is such a great girl power book. And I love anything by Mo Williams.

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  44. Hansel and Gretel.

    Even if my name isn't magically drawn from the hat this time around, I think I'm going to have to buy this book. Tattoos that come to life are cool. I thought so when I saw Electra (one of the villians had a variety of animal familiars that leaped from his skin and became "real").

    I'm curious to see how this author take the same concept and works with it.

    Thanks for the recommendation!

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  45. Hmmmm. I would have trouble picking just one. I read through the entire set of Andrew Lang fairy tale books. I think Rumpelstiltskin leaped to the top when I sat and thought about it for a moment.

    Modern day, I would start with Stardust. But, I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan.

    Jonathan

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  46. I love Treasure Island. I remember making a treasure map. Reading over and over to make the map just right. Burning the edges, wrinkling it and dye it with tea, and trying to making it look like a real treasue map. I couldn't wait to find that treasure. I still have or rather my parents have the map I just saw it last week.

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  47. Tamith2:39 PM

    I can remember loving "How Droofus the Dragon Lost his Head," written and illustrated by Bill Peet.

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  48. Without a doubt it would be Beauty and the Beast. Prolly the reason I am so drawn to paranormals is that I still enjoy the beast or the animal nature side of a man. : )

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  49. My favorite tale was always Beauty and the Beast, though I was always sad when the Beast became a prince, which I'm sure says all kinds of weird things about me.

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  50. Anonymous3:18 PM

    I always liked The Lute Player. It was in an Andrew Lang collection of fairy tales... I always wanted to read a longer version.

    Peri

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  51. I just started THE IRON HUNT last night! Flipping brilliant.

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  52. Where the Wild Things Are most definitely. Also loved "Rumplestiltskin" and "Three Little Pigs" and whatever other stories my dad used to tell.

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  53. Robin F4:57 PM

    When I was young my father read me a Grimm's Fairy Tale every night. I remember repeatedly asking him for the 12 Dancing Princesses. I think I liked the way the Princesses outsmarted so many men, although they were also quite vindictive. I don't know exactly why I loved it so much, but I did.

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  54. Beauty and the Beast, by far, though I love fairy tales in general. I saw this at the bookstore and would love to pick it up if my book budget weren't currently $0.

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  55. Love her work and the latest cover! My favorite would have to be Little Red Riding Hood. Guess that's why my favorite genre to read now is Paranormal. (love the werewolves and vamps)

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  56. My favorite is Beauty and the Beast. But the one that really impacted me was The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, which I read when I was an adult. To me, it was more than fighting industrialized society. It showed me, the power to change is in everybody.

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  57. ManiacScribbler6:02 PM

    I love the traditional "princess" stories, but especially Beauty and the Beast. That was probably my most favourite, but I loved stories in general. Haha
    ManiacScribbler =^..^=

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  58. Cinderella is my favorite fairy tale.

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  59. As a child I remember loving The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I was so touched by it that it stays with me today.

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  60. When I was little we had a whole series on records with books that we could read along with; we would play them over and over. Among my favorites were Snow White and Rose Red, Thumbalina, and the one where the animals were musicians, the title escapes me at the moment.

    I've also always been a big fan of Snow White and the Seven dwarfs and the Wizard of Oz was my favorite movie until I was a teenager.

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  61. If I had to pick just one tale it would be the "Chronicles of Prydain." I know they're not a folktale, but those books were the reason I really started to love reading as a child.

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  62. Anonymous9:59 PM

    I love Majorie's books since discovering "Eye of Heaven" last year.

    I enjoyed the Grimm's fairytales because I have always been into scarier and darker stories.

    I also loved reading "The Boy Who Drew Cats."

    Thanks,

    Terri W.

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  63. It wasn't so much a fairy tale as a book: The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast. I remember the pictures as being amazingly detailed.

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  64. I love Cinderella So MUCH!

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  65. On account of my shoddy memory, I can't remember much of my childhood. Thus all I can do is through my name into the hat unaccompanied.

    Have a lovely day! :-)

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  66. Hmm, I feel compelled to look some of the fairy-tales mentioned up.

    As for me it would be Little Red Riding Hood, hands down. Unless of course Alice in Wonderland counts as a story from childhood? Choosing between them is tough...

    I haven't read anything by Marjorie M. Liu, but her stuff sounds like it's right up my alley.

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  67. Anonymous12:51 AM

    Beauty and the Beast is still my favourite fairy tale.
    Marian in SA irwinm@jgi.co.za

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  68. A Samurai's Tale by Erik Chrisian Haugaard.

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  69. I had an illustrated copy of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses". I read it over and over and over.

    I'm not sure why it fascinated me so much - just the idea that they had a secret door and they snuck out in the middle of the night? It's a great little story.

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  70. Where the Sidewalk Ends is mine. On top of the really cool story, I was never told not to color in it or add my own things.

    Thanks Mom and Dad!

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  71. Cinderella was my favorite fairy tale as a child.

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  72. You know, I guess had an instinct for world sorrow even when I was young - it's strange, but even at that age, the sadder something was to me, the more beautiful it was also. My favorite was The Steadfast Tin Soldier, which I even tried to memorize. Now I only really remember a piece of the final lines - "she flew like a sylph, straight into the fire ... "

    I first read it in a very ornate illustrated collection, and the last page of The Steadfast Tin Soldier was opposite the first page of a story called Petrushka (actually a Russian ballet, but here it was told as a fairy tale), complete with an illustration of the ghost of the puppet clown. It scared the living hell out of me, so every time I came to the last page of The Steadfast Tin Soldier I would read with one eye closed so that I didn't see Petrushka. Unfortunately, I'd always accidentally see him anyway and scare the daylights out of myself.

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  73. Definitely Cinderella : )

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