In the Cities of Coin and Spice and In the Night Garden introduced readers to the unique and intoxicating imagination of Catherynne M. Valente. Now she weaves a lyrically erotic spell of a place where the grotesque and the beautiful reside and the passport to our most secret fantasies begins with a stranger’s kiss.…
Between life and death, dreaming and waking, at the train stop beyond the end of the world is the city of Palimpsest. To get there is a miracle, a mystery, a gift, and a curse—a voyage permitted only to those who’ve always believed there’s another world than the one that meets the eye. Those fated to make the passage are marked forever by a map of that wondrous city tattooed on their flesh after a single orgasmic night. To this kingdom of ghost trains, lion-priests, living kanji, and cream-filled canals come four travelers: Oleg, a New York locksmith; the beekeeper November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a young Japanese woman named Sei. They’ve each lost something important—a wife, a lover, a sister, a direction in life—and what they will find in Palimpsest is more than they could ever imagine.
Four strangers are bound together in adventure, love and occasional sorrow in this parable from Tiptree winner Valente (The Orphan's Tales). The city of Palimpsest exists somewhere outside our reality, accessible only during the sleep that follows sex. The "immigrants" to Palimpsest, marked forever by the tattoo-like impression of a map on their skin, seek out one another for real-world sexual adventures that function as passports to new otherworldly quarters. In outstandingly beautiful prose, Valente describes grotesque, glamorous creatures sometimes neither human nor animal, alive nor dead, and mortal travelers who pursue poignant personal quests to replace the things (and people) they've lost. Valente's fondness for digression at times makes for a difficult read, and her fable of quest and loneliness is less an engrossing fairy tale and more a meticulous travelogue of a stranger's dream.