Vine: An Urban Legend by Michael Williams
Author: Michael Williams
Genre: Fiction (Louisville, KY / Greek Mythology / Mythpunk / High School Students / Theater /
Publisher/Publication Date: Blackwyrm (3/28/2012)
Source: First Rule Publicity
Rating: Liked very much.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: Gods and muses wiggle among mortals in Louisville, KY where a handful of mortals (and maybe a demigod or two) try to stage a production of Euripides.
Reading Challenges: E-book
Do I like the cover?: I don't have any strong feelings one way or the other.
I'm reminded of...: Catherynne M. Valente, Margaret Atwood, the Canongate Myth series
First line: I have come back home, children, riding unscrupulous winds.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy if you like the melding of myth and reality, crazy pretty language, or something experimental now and then.
Why did I get this book?: I'm a sucker for all things Greek mythology.
Review: I was delighted by this book from the first page. Written vaguely in the style of a Greek play -- or, a choral novel, as Williams explains in his Author's Note -- there are narrative 'episodes' and various commentaries, ranging from the Muses to the homeless itinerants.
Set in Louisville, Kentucky, the story follows a handful of players -- Stephen Thorne, once-disgraced high school teacher who now runs regional theater; his band of scrappy teen thespians, some of whom might just be literally divine; his student fling, now a grown woman and a mother -- as they attempt to stage Euripides' Bacchae. The production has attracted immortal interest, and the gods gather in Louisville, nudging and pushing everyone along. Like a production on opening night, the story hurtles toward the end -- but whether the end is a success or disaster remains to be seen. Reading, I wasn't sure if this would be a Greek tragedy or comedy, and I held my breath, hopeful.
I was rather taken with the characters, which surprised me -- given the sort of stylized way the story is written, I expected some distance, but Williams creates real warmth in his players, back stories that resonated and moved me, and he evokes a Louisville that is urban, grimy, gritty, and mesmerizing.
Williams' writing style is just wonderful, a word-lovers delight. (I shared a teaser yesterday.) Languorous, lyrical, lilting, lovely -- very nearly the kind of thing to read aloud, just to try on words new and exotic. Yet, despite the poetic style, the book doesn't feel contrived or overly designed: it still reads like a novel, still has dramatic tension and great characters, and the unusual frame just heightens the anticipation and the awareness of supernatural elements. A kind of magical realism for those who like their magic darker and seedier.
*** *** ***
I'm thrilled to be able to offer THREE copies of Vine: An Urban Legend to lucky readers! For US/Canadian readers, you can enter to win a paperback copy of the book. For US/international readers, you can enter to win one of two e-books. To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US and international readers, ends 12/14.