The average american reads 12 books a year. According to the Pew Research Center, seven in ten Americans read one book a year. GINNY/FLICKR
The average american reads 12 books a year. According to the Pew Research Center, seven in ten Americans read one book a year. PHOTO CREDIT: GINNY/FLICKR

My books define my life.

My parents have video proof of my need for “book time” until I turned five. In third grade I won a reading contest completing some thirty books in a month and raising money for the March of Dimes.

The last lesson my Zeide (grandfather) taught me before he passed away was to continue reading and learning.

Needless to say, “Goodreads” revolutionized my life.

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A social media site based around books and authors? It is where I belong. The website also challenges readers to pledge a number of books to read over the year.

So, my New Year’s resolution is to read 100 books.

That averages to two books per week with two cheat weeks. I decided to write reviews of the books I have read.

Every book is a journey. I want to take an epic journey, and I invite you to join me.

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So let’s begin with a review of a short book by Mark Z. Danielewski.

For about six months, since my introduction to Danielewski’s writing style, I searched for “The Fifty Year Sword”.

I scouted the Barnes & Noble in Staten Island, the one on the corner of Broadway and 82nd in Manhattan and visited The Strand Book Store, my favorite, twice.

On the second visit to The Strand I found a solitary copy of the short story described as a ghost story for adults.

“The Fifty Year Sword” is a novel in its approach.

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It places the reader in a room with Chinatana, a woman attending the party of a friend watching over five orphans.

A storyteller enters the party with a locked box and tells of his journey to acquire a mystical weapon, the “fifty year sword,” within.

He mentions other weapons, like a sword that can kill an idea, which conjure sinister images of frightful possibilities.

As with every Danielewski story, the experimental layout evolves the novel form.

The most prominent experimental choice in “The Fifty Year Sword” is Danielewski’s decision to tell the story through five unnamed narrators, each identified by different colored quotation marks.

While he could explore this choice comprehensively in a longer novel, in this short story the punctuation is a tease-in, but does not significantly affect the storytelling.

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Also in “The Fifty Year Sword” are illustrations on every other page, designed to look like stitching, that add emphasis to the important details of the story.

In all of his novels, Danielewski unabashedly places the words in odd shapes and directions to add a visual element to the process of reading itself.

He has no problem dedicating an entire page to a sentence or even to one word.

This ability to affect the perception through the placement of words is reason enough to give his books a chance.

“The Fifty Year Sword” is a short, gripping tale that will leave you pondering.

It will change the way you read.

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1 comment

  1. Firstly Nice Review, I’m always intrigued by authors who portray the text itself as a story element or include images like character sketches or maps; I love a good map. Secondly, I really admire you commitment, not only is reading a hundred books a year a lot, but attempting to write a review for each too. I recently got back into reviewing and set a goal of two a month. Thirdly the Strand is amazing! I would also suggest checking out Bookoff on 49 W 45th St as well as it is a used discount bookstore with a lot of older hard to find editions and recent best sellers alike. Last time I was there I found a signed copy of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman for $5.

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