I am currently reading Marly Youmans' 2014 novel Glimmerglass, a hard shining tale of art and wonder, about how life is art and wonder, how art and wonder are life, how wonder and life are art. I am trying to think of what it reminds me of, and the best I can do right now is sort of mid-period A.S. Byatt crossed with H.D. Thoreau under the tutelage of Lewis Carroll. The prose is vibrant and imaginative, the images of nature rubbing against and through fantastic and magical symbols, and I keep expecting the protagonist, Cynthia, to fall through a hedge into a world of talking, tea-drinking, cigarette-smoking animals (Youmans' hero notices similarities between the denizens of Cooper Patent and characters from children's literature like The Wind and the Willows).
"A long time has passed since my life seemed like a story tinged with mystery, worth the reading," she said slowly, "and I rather marvel that it can feel that way again."Youmans has written a magic book, is what I keep thinking as I read. Not a book about magic, but a book full of magic, made of magic. A lot of modern literature is about the existential problem and focuses with a serious mind on the pain of existence; Youmans focuses with a serious mind on the joy of existence, without sentiment and treacle.
"My muse," [says Cynthia] "He's not merciful. And is as ruthless as an angel. He's demanding. He doesn't care if I'm cut or lamed or shaking, and he makes me race to keep up. But in the end, he saves me."I'm only halfway through the book, and I assume there are more thematic threads to be woven into more ideas. Certainly the first half of the narrative overflows with symbolism and what might be foreshadowing. The world of the book is peopled with trolls, angels, saints possessed by demons (maybe), and who knows what else. (I refer to Youmans' literary conceit of presenting her characters as mythic figures while simultaneously presenting them as mudbound humans; the story threatens, as I've said, to tumble backwards through the landscape into myth; it's unstable and hallucinatory, but not in a C.S. Lewis "there is a hidden world accessible through my closet" kind of way. Youmans is doing something new: her world is both mundane and miraculous.) But onward, where I'll see what I see when I see it, I guess.