Short Story Review: “Palimpsest” by Catherynne M. Valente

2 of 5 stars.

Fantasy is nothing if not imaginative with a sliding scale from near-realism to the far absurdist and fantastical. Like the echo of a dream, the fantastical follows its own rules taking the dreamer along for a journey.

In its dreamlike quality, Valente’s fantastical prose-poem defies categorization. No plot nor cause and effect shapes the text. Aspects are like an aubade, [the French morning-after-a-tryst poem] in that the dreamy, absurdist landscapes involve a series of lovers stretched across the map of a non-existent city named Palimpsest. The word itself is a mere suggestion, an echo, of something substantive that once preceded.

No tale emerges from the streaming images tumbling and jostling variations on the same themes–lovers, maps, a city, the elusive connections between people. Unfortunately, nothing substantive offers a point of entry to understanding this world.

This fantasia appears in Street Magicks edited by Paula Guran. I received this new anthology from Netgalley. The short story was originally published in Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy [2008]. I’ve previously reviewed this author’s “A Delicate Architecture” and “Urchins, While Swimming”.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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