The Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z. DanielewskiThe Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z. Danielewski

The Fifty Year Sword

byMark Z. Danielewski

Hardcover | October 16, 2012

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In this story set in East Texas, a local seamstress named Chintana finds herself responsible for five orphans who are not only captivated by a storyteller’s tale of vengeance but by the long black box he sets before them. As midnight approaches, the box is opened, a fateful dare is made, and the children as well as Chintana come face to face with the consequences of a malice retold and now foretold.

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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Title:The Fifty Year SwordFormat:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9.32 × 5.3 × 1.16 inPublished:October 16, 2012Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307907724

ISBN - 13:9780307907721

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Short Horror Story When I got the book I had just finished House of Leaves and was ready to take a break from the long, grueling, intricate format of that book. This was perfect! A short horror story that you could read in an hour and still come back to read in a week or so's time.
Date published: 2017-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So much love I find this story lovely to read again and again. Feels and reads like a modern fairy tale. The string work is a beautiful way to illustrate a book about a tale.
Date published: 2015-03-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Baffling and facile Some weeks ago, a friend recommended Danielewski's _House of Leaves_ to me. I immediately picked it up, fascinated by the book's narrative, typography, and, of course, the exquisite terror it evoked in me. I clung to every word, followed Danielewski's labyrinths with the utmost patience, and was ultimately rewarded for it. I dare say that _House of Leaves_ (despite being rather obviously the progeny of Nabokov's _Pale Fire_) is one of those few books that have changed my life. Not so in this case. I read a number of glowing reviews of _The Fifty Year Sword_. Sure enough, I rushed to a store and bought a copy. I was immediately impressed by the book's intricate design, but, as I kept reading, I kept feeling more and more...disappointed (but the right phrase for my actual feelings is "ripped off"). First, I was expecting a little more than 200-something thickly-printed pages (with half of the pages blank). If I had known I was reading a poem that's actually a transcription of some sort of interview, I would have approached the book from a completely different angle. I'm still quite uneasy about the fact that the book can't quite decide whether it's a poem or a conceptual novella. As a result, there's not much of a story to speak of. Second, the beautiful conceit of the five thread colours is completely wasted, because the narrative is actually linear. I found no comprehensive way to read the book asynchronously, and it obviously wasn't meant to be an ergodic text. Why, then, does it have such unnecessary complexity? Danielewski's could have done a lot more with a lot less here, and these conceits of colours, needlepoint images, and red inter-stitching (beautiful though they may be) are an obvious excess. In the end, this book has little wit and no mystery (the "ghost story" continues to hit the readers over the head with its so-called revelations). Whereas my intellect was dwarfed the skill and wit of _House of Leaves_, I felt as if Danielewski was insulting my intelligence with _The Fifty Year Sword_.
Date published: 2012-10-15

Read from the Book

“The Social Worker had mentionedother          “youngens                              “but that night Chintana saw no sign of any more.    “Maybe the incresiating cold                                             “or thepeculiar threat of a storm                                            “or Belinda Kite’s birthday                      “had turned parentsfrom wrestling with seat belts and car seats—           “—from those oh so                                            “many listsof baby sitters tacked conveniently by aphone.     “Chintana rubbed the violet lineon her thumb as a woman with topaz clamped on her ears burst past her towards a small bathroom tucked under the main stairs.     “ ‘Such a hateful whore,’ the womansputstuttersobbed to Chintana,                                             “to no one in particular,                   “diving for the comforts oflock and running water.     “Whereupon Chintana’s thumbabruptly began to sore a little                                         “and she felt bleak,                “as if a thousand                                       “vengeances upon vengeances were dicing her suddenly                “into hail.    “Though the cause was none too mysterous                 “—the front door just stoodwide open.                          “Though when it hadbeen flung so Chintana would neverremember.     “The porch lights were extinguishedtoo, oddly,               “and what’s more a shadownow cut across the threshold,                                            “thoughwithout moon or stars in the Texas skythis was an awful impossibility,                                               “for herereaching towards her it seemed was ashadow cast by nothing                                        “other                                                   “than the darkness itself.     “Most would’ve denied the sight witha turn,                    “a cry,                                             “flight,“but maybe because Chintana too, dayout and night in, could so easily consider doing the same,                       “what would leave theserooms drenched in silence,                                       “and blood,“she welcomed him. “ ‘The orphans’                        “was all he said.“And Chintana showed him the way.

Editorial Reviews

“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