Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


"Hell, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant was the subject of this kind of [sf/f/h] community outrage last summer, but it’s the best Fantasy novel I’ve read in years. American poet Marly Youmans’ Thaliad might be the best post-apocalyptic book I’ve ever read. Neither of these writers come from traditional genre backgrounds, but they’ve shown up and produced dazzling works nonetheless." --Tom Atherton (UK)

Love when a book of mine finds an unexpected compliment in a review that belongs to someone else.... Thank you, Tom Atherton.

And here's his first review of Thaliad. And he kindly wrote about the book again in a review of Glimmerglass at Strange Horizons.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

How a table named a book--

Almost twenty years ago, I was living in a splendid but somewhat ramshackle Arts and Crafts / Tudor house on South Park Avenue in Greenville, South Carolina. A large house, it had a big, wonderful dining room with high fumed oak wainscoting. We had no table to fit such a large room, and no money with which to buy one worthy of the space. One day I found a table in the alley. Unable to find out why it had landed in the alley behind our house like a welcome UFO or who it belonged to, and half believing it had been sent especially to us because we lacked a table, I eventually helped carry it inside.

The table turned out to belong to the back yard carriage house of a neighbor, Wade Hampton Barber (yes, a descendant of Civil War General Wade Hampton and also an architect and a very kind man.) Not wanting to be table-pilferers, we were quite prepared to lug our two-legged friend back out again, but he told us to keep it. So it became ours. A two-pedestal number with one weak, repaired leg--not right as to house style and marked by many long-ago dinners--the table looked wonderful in the room.

Later on, it moved to a federal house in Cooperstown with us and went through many adventures, the leg breaking and being repaired multiple times, once collapsing under the pressure of our daughter's birthday party (eleventh, I think.) Many girls leaning at one end of the table, plus a major Schneider's Bakery cake, did in that table. Happily, both cake and girls survived. The table was propped and cake happily demolished soon afterward. For some years we relied on clamps and supports (jars, cans, anything stackable) hidden under generous tablecloths, the table sometimes standing on its own, sometimes with help. After multiple rounds of repair by a carpenter, we finally consigned the table to the garage and nabbed a sturdy Hickory Chair table on Craigslist. The new table is quite fine and has strong legs, but I miss the old one.

The table's original owner was Wade Hampton Barber's Aunt Thalia. Her name was pronounced this way: THAY-leeah. We always referred to the wayward table as Aunt Thalia's table. Aunt Thalia's name went back to ancient Greece, where Thalia (Θάλεια) was the name of various mythic figures: one of the Charites or Graces; the Muse of comedy and idyllic or short pastoral poetry; a nymph and goddess of plants who was the daughter of the creative god Hephaestus; and one of the Nereids. I like the link in meaning to abundance, flowering, and flourishing.

One summer day in the village of Cooperstown, I woke up with a long poem streaming in my head, and the name of the heroine was Thalia. And that is how a table named a book called Thaliad.

 * * *

Postscript: Sad to say, I just found a mention of Wade Barber's funeral online. His mother is listed as Thalia Chastain Barber. So perhaps the table owner was not Aunt Thalia but Mother. Which is even more appropriate to the book. But maybe this was Great-aunt Thalia, after whom his own mother was named. Given the condition of the table, that seems likely.

* * *

The second printing of The Foliate Head is officially out of print, with no more copies via the publisher, though there are some copies left at online bookstores. In print are: Maze of Blood; Glimmerglass; Thaliad; A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage; The Throne of Psyche. See more links above.

Monday, August 08, 2016

"The elation of colour"

I like this little article including new research into the making of medieval manuscripts. Here's a clip:
The contents of a scriptorium’s cabinet have something of the ‘eye of bat, toe of frog’ about them. The parchment pages are goatskin, sheepskin, calfskin, split and pared down to tissue thinness, or they are ‘uterine vellum’ — the skin of aborted calves. Cuttlefish bones scraped the parchment smooth. Quills were cut from goose, swan or crow feathers. Hair from squirrels’ tails made the finest brushes. Gold leaf could be polished to brilliance with a ‘dog’s tooth’ — a shard of agate.
And another taste of the past:
The Roman taxonomer Pliny, a collector of both natural histories and far-fetched fables, writes of a red pigment called ‘dragon’s blood’ derived from the mingled bloods of a battling dragon and elephant. While most pigments could be had from the town apothecary, a scribe wanting to get his hands on dragon’s blood would have to wait for a defeated dragon to be crushed beneath a wounded elephant. Spoilsport art historians have since identified ‘dragon’s blood’ as the sap of the East Asian rattan palm tree. 
Read the rest! You'll find illuminated books to be even stranger and more beautiful than before.

Friday, August 05, 2016


to writer and anthologist Lynne Jamneck, who says, "Eight stories from Dreams From the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror received honorable mentions by Ellen Datlow for "The Best Horror of the Year 8." 
Sonya Taaffe - “All Our Salt-Bottled Hearts”
Molly Tanzer - “But Only Because I Love You”
Marly Youmans - “The Child and the Night Gaunts”
Karen Heuler - “All Gods Great and Small”
R.A. Kaelin - “Mnemeros”
Storm Constantine - “From the Cold Dark Sea”
Amanda Downum - “Spore”
Gemma Files - “Every Hole in the Earth We Will Claim as Our Own”
(And thanks to Lynne Jamneck for the request.)

Monday, August 01, 2016

Rabbit, rabbit--

August first so soon! It's time to begin a novel, time to read four books by writers I have not read before and get the reviews in by month's end, time to figure out what to do with some poetry manuscripts . . . time to hunker down and improve the time.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


I have found the lost microphone and fooled around with recording a snip from Glimmerglass. I may do more. Unless the general populace detests my audio self.

Like many people, I dislike recordings of my voice. My father once tried to record me reading Alice in Wonderland when we lived in Louisiana (Wonderland), and I was so self-conscious that I think I lost my mind in a sort of 5-year-old way.

Next time I am going to record in my closet, which is all buffery-buttery-soft and should make for better sound. And thank you to Paul for the gift of the microphone, which I will try not to misplace again. Both books and microphones wander, it seems.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Fragile, perishable things--

My most important memories of early childhood are of Gramercy and Baton Rouge, places that seem in memory bright with color, drenched in light, alive with beauty. They are, I believe, memories that have fed me and made me the sort of writer I am. By the age of 13, I had lived in many places--South Carolina, Louisiana, Kansas, Delaware, North Carolina--but somehow those early memories of Louisiana have remained touchstones of the beautiful for me. The levee, the little mud towers under the house, the moonflowers at night, extravagance of blossom by day, the pink-throated lizards dangling helplessly from my ear lobes, the sugar garden in our backyard, the plants that spired up into the trees, the plums and bamboo, the shrimp in the rock pools: all these and more changed me. Did I regret leaving a place that was, to me, magical? Yes.

Back then I did not know that fragile, perishable things--civility, courtesy, respect, truth, goodness, beauty, order, civilization that allows the arts and human beings to flourish--are always at risk in our world. Though small, I knew death, even in the heart of my own family. But I did not yet know that such things as murder, chaos, and moral darkness could be.

And now we all know, over and over again, even on this very day, how fragile and perishable things are swept away. In Baton Rouge and Baghdad, in Dallas and Nice. We know lives lost needlessly to shadow. It is up to us, each one, to stand up for those fragile, perishable things, to praise them, to mourn when they are swept away, to do our very best to keep and protect them.

Father and son. Officer Montrell Jackson,
one of our public servants murdered in Baton Rouge today.
Dormit in pace.

I wrote this post especially for Greg Langley, the former (and the very wonderful) Books Editor of The Baton Rouge Advocate.