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The Fifty Year Sword Hardcover – October 16, 2012

52 customer reviews

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The Fifty Year Sword + The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May + House of Leaves
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The Fifty Year Sword is a clever experiment in voice and structure, a prose poem consisting of cascading waves of dialogue spoken by five different narrators looking back on a single frightening night. . . . The joy of the book comes mostly from the physical act of turning the pages and scanning the layout, but the language deserves mention as well. In fact, some of the diction and words echo Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” or James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, as separate words and phrases collide to make one and bits of words rearrange to form new ones. . . . A rare treat for devoted book lovers.” 
The Boston Globe

“This gorgeous trade edition . . . gives further evidence that Danielewski is one of the most gifted and versatile writers of our time.”
The Washington Post

“[A] captivating atmospheric journey, one that defies the norm of just reading a book. Danielewski, like his undeniably creepy and possibly ethereal antagonist, isn’t merely a storyteller. He creates experiences, multi-dimensional pieces of art that don’t conform to one genre, and that beg for physical engagement from the audience. The Fifty Year Sword follows in the tradition of Henry James’ ‘The Turn Of The Screw’ and the work of Washington Irving, but in a distinctly postmodern context. It’s a beautifully haunting, resonant multimedia adventure.” 
The A.V. Club

“A seriously experimental confection of modern horror literature. . . . Composed mostly of dialogue, some attributed to various speakers, some not, some near-abstract drawings of needlework constructions, and a lot of white space—all wrapped in the pages of a very classy piece of book production—The Fifty Year Sword might be the oddest book of the year. In certain ways, it might be the most interesting and enjoyable. . . . I imagine people getting together late at night and, as they read the book aloud, conjuring up this East Texas night, in which immediate danger and antique fairy-tale horror come together, joined by the slender threads of this one-of-a-kind narrative genius, a writer a lot closer to Edgar Allan Poe than he is to most of his contemporaries.”
—Alan Cheuse, Dallas Morning News
 
“Danielewski echoes the oral tradition of ghost stories by employing the voices of five orphans to take turns narrating. . . . The writing itself occasionally hits on a detail disturbing enough to fall like freezing water down the reader’s spine.”
Time Out New York
 
“I entered The Fifty Year Sword prepared to be bewildered, but . . . we’re drawn into the narrative. . . . A goth hero’s quest . . . a fairy tale narrated by a Greek chorus. . . . Mark Z. Danielewski might be America’s most successful experimental fiction writer.” 
—Daniel Handler, The New York Times Book Review

“A swift, old-style ghost story with crisp, eerie illustrations. The text itself becomes blade cuts. The tale’s momentum and dark tone take over, speeding the story to its surprise end. . . . The Fifty Year Sword is a pleasure to read.”
Chicago Tribune
 
“This strange novella is a new spin on Poe-esque ghost stories, and is being delivered in its new form full of beautiful (and sometimes beautifully grotesque) stitched illustrations, the colors of Halloween's season, and typography that actively follows what happens within the story. And so The Fifty Year Sword continues with Mark Z. Danielewski’s explorations of the art of visual storytelling, and what's on the line when it comes time to tell (or re-tell) a story.”
Lit Reactor

“Absorbing, spooky, and playful.”
Library Journal
 
“A sometimes arid, sometimes entertaining ghost story for grown-ups by pomo laureate Danielewski. . . .
Likely destined to become a cult favorite.”
Kirkus Reviews

“This first American edition of Danielewski’s novella, published in a different form in the Netherlands in 2005, has the theatrical quality of a children’s ghost story, complete with stitched-art illustrations (designed by the author), sweeping themes, and fairy-tale tropes . . . This would be well-suited to an oral reading and may be best thought of as an objet d’art that chillingly holds us accountable for our worst thoughts.”
Publisher's Weekly

About the Author

Mark Z. Danielewski was born in New York City and lives in Los Angeles. He is the author of House of Leaves, Only Revolutions and The Whalestoe Letters.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; Reprint edition (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307907724
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307907721
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A. Davenport on May 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am biased towards much of MZD's work, though I am not a huge fan of *Only Revolutions,* because of the amazing impression that *House of Leaves* made upon me; so when I came across this title I was intrigued, but the price made me a little skeptical. After two years of debating, though, I shelled out the money, and I am not in the least disappointed.
The story is less experimental than some of MZD's other works, which some may find refreshing; but there is still an element of a raw-edge to the work. Characters are designated by small, colored apostrophes, and it is easy to forget who is speaking; creating one continuous narrative. The effect of this is mesmerizing and beautiful.
The one thing that is a slight issue is the price, and I would suggest looking around for good prices, the forum for *The Fifty Year Sword,* or T5YS as it is known among fans, at [...] is very helpful in this regard. The sellers at amazon, though, are always reliable and good people to go with. In the end I was happy with my purchase, because not only is the book undoubtedly worth it, but it is sure to become a sought after work in years to come.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By WEva on November 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a great admirer of MZD's work, and T50YS is no exception. I actually tracked down an original 50pg copy from the Netherlands last year for quite a hefty sum, and am both disappointed and delighted that it is now widely available at such a low price. Don't let the number of pages fool you, it is exactly the same story, just reformatted to a lofty 298pgs with more artistic inserts and less words per page. It is no mater, the novela is just as powerful, filled with eccentric characters and an intricately woven plot that is so mysterious it will keep the reader coming back for 2nd and 3rd helpings. MZD is one of the few authors who is trying to expand the medium of literature while simultaneously interact and engage the reader. MZD reminds us that literature can be more than just words on a page.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Christoph R Anderson on November 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is almost unreadable on Kindle. Buy it in a physical format or you will lose the best parts of Danielewski's style.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Dawn on April 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Let me start by saying, I am a huge MZD fan. When I heard abot TFYS I had to read it. The cost was a bit much though. Finally, I got this book for my birthday and I was the happiest girl around. When I sat down to read it, I realized this book isn't very long. There aren't many words per page. It is, an excellent story, I read the book in one sitting. In fact, I couldn't put it down. But, for the price, I expected a bit more. If you liked House of Leaves, then you should read it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Zach Augustine on January 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I had the pleasure of seeing the author, MZD, read this live in its entirety. This experience was amazing and wholly engrossing. However, I now realize that the author's words and musical accompaniment only accentuated aspects of the text. Reading the book again--and the book is short enough to read in one sitting--makes me realize that nothing is lost and this is not a performance piece. This is a standalone story that is beautifully written, thought provoking, and extremely well-designed from a typographic perspective. Note that this is not at all like MZD's House of Leaves, but is just as good in very different ways.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Zachary J. Colston on November 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Since the underground hit of House of Leaves, I have been an avid fan of Mark Danielewski. I have waited for a new novel by him for many years. I could not wait to get it. But I was let down by the image that the book presents. I.e. many people will by it strictly because they like House of Leaves. But The Fifty Year Sword does not compared to that master piece of literature at all. It does not even compare to Only Revolutions, which was not that great. Mark's popular work has always been experimental, and that is what I love about him. The Fifty Year Sword is experimental, but it is not a novel; I do not think, by word, count that it is a novella. There is about six or seven lines on each page, only on the front. Each "character" is color coordinated, but there is not a need for different colors; the only person telling the story is the narrator, and the "man" with the sword.

To be fair the story was very interesting and I plan on reading it again. It only took me about an hour and a half to read the entire book. And that included starring at the magnificent artwork embedded here and there.

I would recommend finding this book at a book store and try to read it. Or rent it from a library. Unless you are a hardcore fan, which I am, who only wants the book to shine on their shelf, do not buy. It is a little over a hundred page, not using the backs, with images. So, the way a regular novel goes it may be twenty pages, and I am being generous.
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Format: Hardcover
From the bestselling author of House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski presents a chilling Halloween story as told third hand through characters in their own specific way with special language and diction. The Fifty Year Sword is a relatively quick read featuring a story that leaves a lasting impression.

Chintana is a local seamstress who finds herself at a party where her nemesis is about to enjoy her birthday at the strike of midnight. Not hoping for much, she enjoys a drink and before she knows it, finds herself in charge of five young orphans. Unsure what to do with them, she finds a surprising answer when a stranger arrives with a very special story to tell, one about a long journey to a creator of swords, swords named for the ages in how they work. It is a story that captivates the orphans, as well as Chintana, reaching a climax with the big black box and what resides within it.

The Fifty Year Sword, like Danielewski's other works, employs a unique form of storytelling and book design, featuring words on the left page, and ornate needlework and cotton and wool swirling on the facing page, making designs and patterns, occasionally linking with the story. While the idea is an interesting one, the overall effort comes off as over exaggerated and at times unnecessary. Danielewski's use of language, however, is an enjoying read, as he uses the language and vocabulary of his seamstress to weave and captivating tale.

Originally written on November 10, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

For more reviews, check out the BookBanter site: [...]
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