Monday, January 23, 2006

The exceptional Marly Youmans, etc.

It was a chance remark to Marly in the comment section of one of her blogs that led to all this listing. I was, and am, so stuck by her work that I said her books--particularly the two tales from Adantis--would enter my lifelist of odd and wonderful books.
She was understandably curious about the books that might rub shoulders with hers. Thus, the days of lists.
My daughter is currently reading The Curse of the Raven Mocker (and I hope she gives it back to me), the first of the two; Ingledove is at my elbow, with its wavery, aquatic cover letters and its cover illustration of two on a perilous boat. Both these books are coming out in paperback--I believe come spring. Now, Marly has written a lot of other books--a harsh and beautiful civil war novel for adults, The Wolf Pit, another two adult novels (I have yet to have these cross my desk), and a volume of poetry (Claire). The Wolf Pit and Claire are excellent. But the Adantis books took hold of my soul and heart.
I'm not sure why--I could give a lot of guesses--these books struck me so intensely. Archetypal, I said to Marly--they each have journeys, and strange people, and exquisite descriptions; they have darkness and danger. But there are many books one could say have darkness, danger, oddness, good description--
The Adantis books stand by themselves. They are listed by publisher and by librarians as "young adult" novels. Young adult, in library and bookstore parlance, means kids from about 10 and up; in my shop it means pretty much all the so called "chapter books". Many books in this category transcend it instantly; Marly's certainly do.
In these books (which stand by themselves; you need not read one first, I think--they are not sequels in the standard sense)--Marly weaves a sense of Appalachian lore (I think that's what it is) and Cherokee tales, and her own witchery. Adantis is a realm that coexists and yet does not coexist with the rest of the world. In Ingledove, which is set in more contemporary times, issues like dams that flood old lands come into play. There is an Adantean language. There is Marly's own vivid language, in which the streams of water off a hillside are "sprangled". There are brave and determined characters--children who are driven by vision, by a need to find--truth? home? lost places?
They leave one slightly dissatisfied--wholly satisfied by the book at hand, yes, but ready for another tale--what became of Bumblebee? Did the Witchmaster and the girl Ingledove meet again in another time?
In terms of iconic imagery, the books that Marly Youmans' The Curse of the Raven Mocker and Ingledove most bring to mind--at least to my casual mind--are George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin (and the sequel to them). There is the light and shadow, and the strong images in MacDonald (or is it McDonald? I am such a bad bookseller, distorting author names)--the rose fire, the beautiful, mysterious, spinning Grandmother, the caverns of the goblins.
But Marly's books really stand on their own. I have yet to read anything else quite like them.


At January 29, 2006 7:01 PM , Blogger marlyat2 said...

Thanks, Ms. J--I doubt that anybody else would have started a new blog because I was curious about what books she liked! I'm enjoying the list.

"Sprangled" is a real word, and you can find it in Farwell, Harold F., Jr., and J. Karl Nicholas, eds. Smoky Mountain Voices: A Lexicon of Southern Appalachian Speech Based on the Research of Horace Kephart. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1993. Those are two professors in Cullowhee, where my father was a professor of analystical chemistry and my mother a librarian. Though I think that I had encountered "sprangled" earlier, when doing research for Catherwood...

When I was a mere sprat, I used to fool around in the campus archives. Back then, there were a lot of Horace Kephart materials lying around, and nobody cared if I pored through his scrapbooks and pictures.

And I suppose there may be a third of those Adantis books. After the next of another sort, that is...


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