Holiday Gift Guide: 25 Books We Want This Year

The Fifty Year Sword, by Mark Z. Danielewski

Click here to buy it now at Amazon, $26.00

Reading a Mark Z. Danielewski book is a thrillingly confounding experience. His first novel, the exceptionally inventive House of Leaves (2000), tells a story about a possibly haunted house with hundreds of footnotes, dueling narratives, pages that only have four or five words, and text laid out in sideways form. In 2006, he returned with the even more bewildering Only Revolutions, a road trip romance told in two accounts of stream-of-consciousness poetry that require the reader to repeatedly turn the book upside down and flip its covers back and forth.

Danielewski's latest, the novella The Fifty Year Sword (written in 2005 but finally available in wide release here), is just as experimentally executed. It's essentially a ghost story, one presented as something akin to a children's tale and following a seamstress and five orphans who open a mysterious black box that unleashes crazy shit. In standard Danielewski fashion, though, the pages aren't typically rendered, with different colors used for each character's quotes and traditional paragraphs replaced by free-flowing dialogue chunks.

The Fifty Year Sword is only for open-minded and adventurous readers. Trust us, though: They'll be in an eccentric's heaven.

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