My friend Marly Youmans has generously granted my request to read a review copy of her new work of fiction, Val/Orson, soon to be released from PS Press. It is a book that does not fit easily into any particular categories. Although it is set in a putative Northern California, a world of old growth giant sequoias, it is less a factual place than an alternative universe, where Merry Men still range the trees, fighting against the power of dark materialism, a place where doubles abound. It is prose, but lyrical as a poem, bearing a strong relation to Shakespeare's comedies. It is fantasy, but full of fact as well, particularly detail of the natural world. It is a work aimed at adults, but as full of wonder as any children's book we may have loved in our own youths and that we might wish to share with our own children.
The book tells the story of a young denizen of the woods, known as Val, a protector of the ancient forest who seems to have been born to climb these trees. He spends much of the book seeking his lost twin, whom he calls Orson, a wild child stolen at birth and found belatedly as an adult. The book is full of wonderful characters, and I detect nary a false thread in its intricate weave.
Though I have read a virtual copy of the book, I can see from the beautiful artwork of the cover and the fonts and graphics used throughout that this book is a thing of beauty to look at as well as to read. PS Press clearly respects its authors, judging by this book, and deserves our attention, particularly at a time when larger presses have abandoned the publication of works like this one, which cannot be easily pigeonholed.
Marly Youmans is an old friend, but I speak of this book not primarily as a friend but as a reader, recommending it to everyone who loves books and who wants to make a new literary acquaintance. This is a beautiful work.
Editions & how to order...Jacketed hardcover limited edition (200) A handsome cloth edition signed by Marly Youmans and the writer of the introduction, Catherynne M. Valente, with jacket image by Clive Hicks-Jenkins and interior by novelist-designer Robert Wexler. Click on the image above to see the jacket in full. A larger run is the unjacketed limited edition (500) signed by Marly.