Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Wood Wife -- Terri Windling-- Review

I finished reading The Wood Wife by Terri Windling. This book is exceptionally well edited and designed. Terri Windling has won five world fantasy awards, has edited the anthology, The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for years, and is possibly one of the best contemporary editors of fantasy writing. The three editors I most recognize are Terri Windling, Ellen Datlow, and Martin H. Greenberg for fantasy. Recently George R.R. Martin is on the rise as well.

The book is exceptionally well designed. I am not sure of the typeface, but I rather like the pagination, the high bond acid free paper, and the book cover. According to the author the book was originally to be a series of novellas to be published with the artist Brian Froud's fantasy art.

I am not going to go over the story, but rather certain points about style and design which are interesting. Terri Windling includes some excerpts from very high quality poets. She includes a few poems by Pablo Neruda, excerpts from "Ars Poetica" by Jorge Luis Borges, as well as the poem "Evening" by Rainier Maria Rilke. This adds to the quality of the poetry and images in the book.

In addition she brings in real life paintings as part of the descriptions. Frida Kahlo and other Mexican surrealist painters are described.

The opening quote by Goethe, "Who Wants to Understand the Poem Must Travel to the Land of Poetry." This very much goes to the essence of the book. Poetry, art, and music draw out archetypes and magic in the setting of the Southwestern Desert of Arizona. The archetypes drawn out are a seemless fusion of Scottish and Native American mythology. Coyote the trickster changes into many different forms for example; coyote, crow, and reinard the fox. Spine woman kisses Maggie Black's eyes and gives her site. The white stag runs in the foothills of Arizona. The wild hunt runs through the hills as packs of coyotes howl at the moon.

In addition to regular text, there are poems, quotes, and letters. One of my favorite letters is a made up letter between Davis Cooper who is made up and Henry Miller. There are numerous letters which go back and forth throughout the story giving a unique flavor to the book.

This book is a fantasy set in the modern context. It occurs in a poets house who has died, Davis Cooper. He has bequeathed the house to another poet, a Maggie Black. The house is at the edge of the wilderness in Arizona. A variety of interesting characters surround the house, a Mexican painter and his wife in a cabin, a Hopi car mechanic, and a retired forester. The setting seems to be very much a borderland between the wilderness of the other (fairyland and native lands) where magic occurs and the modern world is a few hours away by jeep.

I really enjoyed reading this book because of the quality of the writing. If you are looking for a very well written modern fantasy with literary qualities, this book is for you. This book was one of the Mythopoeic award winners.

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