1. Order this book from your library or go down to the bookstore or do whatever you need to do to get it into your hands.
2. Get out a brown paper bag, or some vellum, or tape together laser-printer paper from your printer tray, or something, and fold and cut it so it will cover the book, like you used to do with text books.
3. Print out this image.
or this one:
Or, just do a google image search for "Goblin Market" and just pick whichever one you love more, because there is an image-hoard of disturbing, beautiful, compelling images in there.
4. Read this book without the embarrassment of the weird vampy looking chick on the cover, because this book deserves to be read.
Three short stories, or possibly two short stories and a novella - I did not count the words - about girls and...I just sat here staring at "girls and" for the longest time, not knowing what to put after. Girls and sex, and their mothers, and fruit, and growing up, and voices and silence.
The first story is my favorite, most closely connected to Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market. Christina was always the younger sister in my house. My mother did her dissertation on a sonnet cycle by her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who was a member of the Pre-Rapaelite Brotherhood
, an aesthetic/political movement that is hard to sum up, given how close I feel to them. And I mean that closeness familiarly, like they are family. Mum hung dozens of their paintings in the house, and told stories of their love affairs, drug addictions, marriages, pets - the Rossettis had a wombat who lived under the dining room table, for instance - so they are like crazy relatives to me. For years, Mum threw a party on DGR's birthday, though that has dropped off a bit in recent years - Mum, get back on that; that was fun.
Christina and Dante Gabriel weren't necessarily close, as she was a bit of a Christian fundamentalist nutter, and he was a drug addict. (I'm being super reductionist, and totally unfair here. But she was pretty austere, and he was the opposite of that - his wife died, and he buried her with all his poetry in a fit of grief, and then a year later he decided that was maybe a bad idea, so he dug her up
. I can't remember who of the PRB was with him, but someone, and they noted how her hair and nails had grown, and the swing of the lantern in the dark graveyard - of course, they did this at night - or maybe not, but they should have - and it's that kind of crazy that only the Victorians could pull off.) Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I hadn't read much Christina Rossetti as a lass, because I was too busy smoking cigarettes with her brother behind the gym, but I found her "Goblin Market" in freshman English, and it was good.
It's not perfect, mind you, but good, this weirdly sexual goblin tale, where a woman rescues her sister from goblins and their fruit, and the descriptions are all sticky and tactile. But it ends with the weirdest namby-pamby coda:
"For there is no friend like a sister,
In calm or stormy weather,
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands."
Like, what? I get that this is the quoted verse-thing that troubles readers when they are conversing with Grecian Urns - I'm trying to allude to "Ode to a Grecian Urn" here, which has always been bothered by where the quotation marks go in the last line, but I'm doing a bad job of it, and sounding pedantic as hell - but seriously, trust me, this is a weirdly Hallmark ending for a poem shot through with the whole sex/death/consumption/consumption thing that is going in the body of the poem.
Laini Taylor writes this story with a hammering force, with a smooth, troubled voice, with an ending that hangs and doesn't, with choices that are not choices but facts. Damn. It's so near perfect that it takes my breath away.
The next story is my least favorite in the collection, but that is not a criticism, that is just a crap hieratic truth where I am choosing between my babies. It is more snicking plot, but with a divine balance I find fascinating. Stories about girls becoming women often hinge on their voices - poor Desdemona comes to mind - and this twists and folds that in a very satisfying way.
The last story, she is more like a novella, lapping backstory like waves from the beginning which is also the end. And maybe this is my favorite, the way Taylor tells the stories of interlaced mothers and daughters, how their stories inform and overlap. I have often complained about the way mothers are treated in fiction: absent, crazy, metaphors stripped of personality, but this one gets everything right. They are people, and their heartaches are both supernatural and worldly, and it is a gift that we understand them both.
Go, now, and read.