Monday, March 24, 2014

The Weirwoods

by Thomas Burnett Swann

9361326the name of Thomas Burnett Swann's game is Pastoral Fantasy vs. Slowly Encroaching Civilization. the author wrote a good number of fantasy (and some science fiction) novels that took the old myths and legends as reality and pitted them against the gradual intrusion of industry, the city, the military, modernity in general. one of the delightful things about this author is his ability to make these myths real in their own strange, unreal way. his dryads and water sprites and centaurs and fauns are three-dimensional yet often utterly alien as well. although it is obvious which side Swann is on (and what fantasy author will ever side against fantasy anyway), he also illustrates his early civilizations with the same trappings of fantasy - these aren't the ancient civilizations of the classroom, they are cultures that have been made almost as mythical as the fantasy creatures who share their world. entering one of Swann's novels is entering an adult fairy tale; very little is familiar except for the familiarity we all have with myths & legends & ancient civilizations. these myths & legends have been given a compelling sexuality that is central to their mythology. this is definitely Sexy Fantasy: the sexuality manages at different times to be genuinely sensual and carnal yet also innocent - not dirty and not exploitative, sometimes disturbing and threatening, often deeply homoerotic (and honestly I wish he had been a bit more even-handed with the ladies), and just as often unintentionally silly - and silly in a rather dated, eye-rolling, but still amusing way. anyway, The Weirwoods is about water sprites and Etruscans, a terrible revenge, and how a traveling musician, a naïve city girl, and two deadly but weirdly attractive water sprites all cross paths. his prose is lovely and his story manages to feel languorous despite its brief length. it is a serious book and it is also often a really goofy book (especially in its second half, post-revenge). overall I quite liked it; it took me right into another world and I wanted to stay there longer than I was able. I'm looking forward to reading more by the author and I'm excited to reread the ones I read as a teen. they certainly inspired dozens of my own smutty fantasies. but also a longing for things long past and things that never were.

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