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

Friday, September 05, 2014


Study by Clive Hicks-Jenkins for the jacket of Glimmerglass

"Are there dragons in the book?"

Despite the vibrant one on the cover, there are no dragons in "Glimmerglass." There are, however, some salamanders in a cellar. Nor are there any flying lions. There is, however, a little statue of a minotaur that becomes important later on.

What is it?

This book stands "between" genres, if we must talk about genres. (I don't, as a rule.) In places, it invokes ancient conventions of storytelling like the Muse and the somnium. These are not elements of what might be called a strict realism, but neither are they unknown to us in the world, though we might describe them differently.

Writing as adventure

I'm afraid that I'm known for not doing the same thing twice (inconvenient for publishers but I hope fun for adventurous readers), and perhaps some will think that Glimmerglass is a striking-out into a new territory for me. For the story-weaver inside me, the work all feels like one enormous bolt of cloth with different projects of different shapes and patterns--after all, it's flying from the same loom.

The Clive-art

Neither, I should say, are Clive's cover images and interior images an attempt to convey the literal events of the book. Instead, they revel in the spirit of the book. I posted a longer version of his description earlier, and think it might be helpful:
Glimmerglass is strewn throughout with descriptions of the flora and fauna of an observed landscape. But like the Arabian Nights storyteller, Marly spins tales within tales that access altogether more fabulous topographies, and it’s as though the sea-serpent door-knockers and griffin-embellished wrought-iron gates of the real world, have been markers of hidden realms paralleling the everyday. Bearing in mind I’m a man who reveres the great eighteenth century wood-engraver Thomas Bewick, it was a foregone conclusion that when I came to consider decorations for the chapter headings and tailpieces of this wonderful book, I’d be moved to create a miniature naturalis historia.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.