First, Earthly Desires is now available at Sony ebook! Now, on to the blog post.
There is no doubt that Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente is one of my all-time favorite books. It is the kind of book that almost hurts because it exists. It is the kind of book that brings visions and dreams to mind that live inside you, but you’d utterly forgotten them until Valente viscerally reminds you of them with every sentence and every word. They aren’t always pretty dreams. They aren’t always lovely visions. But sometimes they are.
“Do you think I am a fool, Masha? All this time, and you speak to me as though I were a flighty pinprick of a girl. I am a magician! Did you never think, even once, that I loved lipstick and rouge for more than their color alone? I am a student of their lore, and it is arcane and hermetic beyond the dreams of alchemists. Did you never wonder why I gave you so many pots, so many creams, so much perfume?” Lebedeva’s eyes shone. “Masha, listen to me. Cosmetics are an extension of the will. Why do you think all men paint themselves when they go to fight? When I paint my eyes to match my soup, it is not because I had nothing better to do than worry over trifles. It says: I belong here, and you will not deny me. When I streak my lips red as foxgloves, I say: come here, male, I am your mate, and you will not deny me. When I pinch my cheeks and dust them with mother-of-pearl, I say: death, keep off, I am your enemy, and you will not deny me. I say these things, and the world listens, Masha.”
“We are going to do an extraordinary thing together. Do you know what it is we are doing? I will tell you, so that later, you cannot say I deceived you. We are taking your will out of your jaw – for that is where the will sits – and pressing it very small between our two hands, like a bit of dough. We are rolling it, and squeezing it, until it gets very small. Small enough to fit into the eye of a needle which is hidden inside an egg, which is hidden inside a hen, which is hidden inside a goose, which is hidden inside a deer. When we are finished you will give your will to me, and I will keep it safe for you.”
“The old order, it is good for the old. A farmer wants his son to be afraid of beautiful women, so that he will not leave home too soon, so he tells a story about how one drowned his brother’s cousin’s friend in a lake, not because he was a pig who deserved to be drowned, but because beautiful women are bad, and also witches. And it doesn’t matter that she didn’t ask to be beautiful, or to be born in a lake, or to live forever, or to not know how men breathe until they stop doing it. Well, I do not want to be beautiful, or a woman, or anything. I want to know how men breathe. I want my daughter to be in the Young Pioneers, and grow up and be something important, like a writer or an immunologist, to grow up not even knowing what a rusalka is, because then I will know her world does not in any way resemble one in which farmers tell their sons how bad beautiful women are.”
“What kind of human woman, what kind of simple, happy thing? If I had never been broken on a bird’s wing. If I had never seen the world naked. I want to be myself again. I want to be six. I want to stop knowing everything I know. Ivan looks like the life that you stole from me.”
“I’ve been married seventeen times, Marya Morevna. Do you have any idea how much I know about men? And women! Don’t look so shocked—after an eon or two of being a wife you’ll want one of your own, too. Fiendishly convenient things, wives. Better than cows. They’ll love you for beating them, and work ‘til they die.”
“If you think my brother is any different, girl, then there’s no help for you. He’ll burn you down like wax if you let him. You’ll think it’s love, while he dines on your heart. And maybe it will be. But he’s so hungry, he’ll eat you all in one sitting, and you’ll be in his belly, and what will you do then? Hear me say it, because I know. I ate all of my husbands. First I ate their love, then their will, then their despair, and then I made pies out of their bodies—and those bodies were so dear to me! But marriage is war, and you do what you must to survive—because only one of you will.”
Two Pinterest boards dedicated to visualizing Deathless: