Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wax seals and map tattoos

Every month, I get a letter in the mail that's sealed with a wax stamp. If a roommate fetches the mail on the day it comes, I usually also get a "What's that?" and a nose over my shoulder. I tear open the envelop, pop the seal, and skim the words on the page before folding it again. Then it goes into the pile of assignments and projects in progress on the floor by my bed. It may stay there for a few weeks, or sometimes more than a month, when my life is especially hectic. Then I pick it up - two at a time, occasionally - and spend half an hour soaking in a story.

The letters come from author Catherynne M. Valente's Omikuji Project, a monthly mailing which includes a short story from her that's not published anywhere else. It's a bit like getting treasure in the mail, and it's one of a small handful of things that I do purely for my own enjoyment. It won't further any of my writing or knitting or god-knows-what-else projects, help me finish my schoolwork, or help me unpack stress like TV zombieing does. It serves no purpose in my life whatsoever, except to make me slightly happier.

And that it does damn well. Even when I don't have the time to spend half an hour on something completely non-goal-oriented, I have a wax-sealed letter next to my bed reminding me that a new story is waiting for me. The prose is always gorgeous, and the subjects roam frequently into mythology and fairy tales, which I love. This month's offering did a new take on Snow White, which is one of my favorite stories to see revisited (see also: unconditional love of The 10th Kingdom miniseries), and it felt like an unintentional birthday gift. A dangerous gift, though, since Valente's descriptions always make me want to do elaborate Arthur Rackham-style watercolors and woodburnings.

Maybe later.

At any rate, I gave in to Amazon today and bought Valente's latest novel, which was just released: Palimpsest, a story about a city that's passed from person to person via sex, imprinting part of its map on their skin and leading them into its streets in their dreams. The concept is really cool, and I have it on good authority that the book itself is fantastic. When I first started reading Valente's blog, this little book was a manuscript quickly approaching a deadline. It's always a treat to read a book whose inner processes I've glimpsed ahead of time - sort of a literary "Ha, I've seen you naked." Which, for this book...well, how appropriate.

This one's not going into the usual pile of unread books on my trunk. When it comes in the mail, it will be placed amidst the clutter on the floor by my bed to wait for me. I have a week off class coming up next month, and around that time I plan to pick up Palimpsest and read it purely for my own enjoyment. (I also fully intend to carry it around in my bag and blush while reading it in public.)

Now, if only Amazon had a "Seal with a wax stamp" gift-wrap option.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments on this blog are moderated. :)