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Glimmerglass 2014

I cannot recommend an author more than Marly Youmans,
whose fantastic prose is absolutely gorgeous and haunting.
--novelist S
ébastien Doubinsky, 1 May 2012

Glimmerglass, finalist in the fiction BOTYA
(Mercer, 2014),
now available at online venues, Mercer, bn, and indies.
Interior/exterior art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins of Wales.

Favorite books of 2014, 
Books and Culturehere

Books of 2014 
at First Things: here

Strange Horizons 
Year in Review 2015: here

Books for Christmas: 
The Headmaster Recommends, 2015: here

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Q and A after a reading with Philip Lee Williams
at the Athens, Georgia Barnes and Noble


It’s brilliantly well-written, shockingly raw, and transportingly—sometimes confusingly (but not in a bad way)—weird.

Glimmerglass shimmers on the boundaries of the real and the unreal, of poetry and prose, of the ordinary and the fantastic. It’s down to the caprice of the individual reader, therefore, to decide exactly what sort of story it’s trying to tell.

It’s difficult to overstate the emotional effect that Glimmerglass has had on me. This is a beautiful, complex, moving book. Marly Youmans’s prose flows like clear water, and every image is, as Cynthia observes, “full of meaning” (p. 39). Read the complete review here.

Marly Youmans' Glimmerglass: A Novel: Youmans is a poet who writes novels. Her prose is beautiful. There were many lines I read out loud to my wife. When I finished it, she read it and we agreed: This book is a literary treasure.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins sketch for Glimmerglass

blurb from a poet

I know of no writers other than Marly Youmans who have the genius to combine the spine-tingling suspense of Gothic storytelling with the immense charm, grace, glamour, realism, and simplicity of Hawthorne. Glimmerglass does more than shimmer and grip; it entertains and hypnotizes. Youmans, one of the biggest secrets of contemporary American fiction, writes with freshness and beauty. Whether she’s writing historical fiction or fantasy, her characters leave one breathless. Her ability to describe a person, a place, or the psychological underpinnings of a plot or individual, ranks with the great novelists, the highest literature. A tale of love and intrigue, mystery and pathology, Glimmerglass’ appeal is the warmth and charge of a tale told round a fire fused by Hitchcockian anxiety, empathy, and relief. Nature, architecture, dread, thrill, sexual dilemma, and murder echo against Youmans’ gorgeous prose and terrifying romance, which glides like a serpent―without a single extraneous or boring word. Youmans is my favorite storyteller. I come back to her as if to a holy well.
--Jeffery Beam, award-winning poet
of The Broken Flower, Gospel Earth, and many more books

from First Things (print and online)

Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times but in tune with the ages. Glimmerglass is set in the present in a fictional village patterned on Cooperstown. It's a sweetly uncanny mix of the quotidian and the magical, a portrait of the artist (and this is such a refreshing change) as a middle-aged woman recovering her vocation. There's a very odd house, too, with Gothic chambers, and a family secret, and much more. "Books of 2014," March 2015

from a review at Brandywine Books

Glimmerglass the novel may be like Glimmerglass the lake. It’s beautiful from the shore, warm, inviting, even with hints of danger and mystery, and alien, if not weird, under the surface. When Cynthia falls into the icy lake, metaphorically speaking, she emerges among chain-smoking ghosts, feathered angels with parasols, minotaurs, and palace dance halls. Sure, it sounds trippy, but it works beautifully well.   --Phil Wade

from Curled Up With a Good Book

Listed as a novel, I found Glimmerglass to be enchanted and quirky. It feels more like a fantasy or gothic mystery than a prosaic "novel," a fairly new genre that is indefinable....This is an amazing book and engaging tale. I sat with the finished book in my lap and wondered where this remarkable author found her muse and created such a oddly lovely place, peopled with the strange, laced with the usual human emotions--jealousy, fear, love and curiosity. I fully intend to read this again, and to explore some of Youmans' other writing. --Laura Strathman Hulka, February 2015

I have been meaning to write more about Marly Youmans' latest novel Glimmerglass, the second half of which features an adventure that is part fever dream, part mystical experience, and part thrilling escape. The protagonist of the tale encounters characters from scripture, myth, from literary history, and from her own subconscious. There is an admirable angel character who may or may not be Satan; it works either way, which is some trick. Some day soon, hopefully, I'll write about it, but for now I want to say that this is a book where the writer continues to push things, to work with her materials and find something new all along the course of the narrative. Yes, that's what I want to say, and that's what I want to find in a story.  --Scott G. F. Bailey, February 2015
I am currently reading Marly Youmans' 2014 novel Glimmerglass, a hard shining tale of art and wonder, about how life is art and wonder, how art and wonder are life, how wonder and life are art. I am trying to think of what it reminds me of, and the best I can do right now is sort of mid-period A.S. Byatt crossed with H.D. Thoreau under the tutelage of Lewis Carroll. The prose is vibrant and imaginative, the images of nature rubbing against and through fantastic and magical symbols... Youmans has written a magic book, is what I keep thinking as I read. Not a book about magic, but a book full of magic, made of magic. A lot of modern literature is about the existential problem and focuses with a serious mind on the pain of existence; Youmans focuses with a serious mind on the joy of existence, without sentiment and treacle....Youmans' literary conceit of presenting her characters as mythic figures while simultaneously presenting them as mudbound humans; the story threatens, as I've said, to tumble backwards through the landscape into myth; it's unstable and hallucinatory, but not in a C.S. Lewis "there is a hidden world accessible through my closet" kind of way. Youmans is doing something new: her world is both mundane and miraculous. --novelist Scott G. F. Bailey, January 2015

I should remember to say something about Youmans' extraordinary prose. She's a poet, and her narrative rings with the sounds of formal verse and scripture, surprising touches all over the place... The writing is not dense; there's a light shining through the carefully-placed gaps, the unfilled chinks. Maybe Youmans' prose is like a rose bush, prickly and beautiful and full of open space; hard and dangerous upcroppings in support of beauty. --Scott G. F. Bailey, April 2015 

Part fairy tale, part cautionary tale with a dash of fantasy and allegory, Youmans has created a special world in Glimmerglass. Cooper Patent is a village rooted in the States, but it shimmers with hints of Neverland, the Land of Oz and a visit through the looking glass. The setting has an eerie beauty to it along with tingling suspense and a real-world mystery clamoring for resolution. The language is spare and illuminating and sparkles a bit at the edges. I finished it late last night "before threading the eye of the needle and sliding head first into the plush midnight fabric of sleep."
--Suzanne Brazil, February 2015

from Publishers Weekly 

This stylish contemporary variation on the Bluebeard legend from Youmans (A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage) serves up an appealing blend of myth, mystery, and magic... (July 2014.)

blurb from an editor

You might not even know what you are seeking, but once inside the pages of Glimmerglass, you'll find exactly what you need: "a cult of music, a hill of sea." In the Republic of Letters, Marly Youmans is our Magician in Chief.
--John Wilson, Editor, Books and Culture

from The Wilmington Star

Fantasy and myth mix with classic whodunit in “Glimmerglass,” the latest novel from poet and South Carolina native Marly Youmans. This is only detective fiction, though, in the sense that “Hamlet” is a play about a kid who can't get along with his stepfather. Youmans takes a couple of overworked genres and makes them undergo a sea change into something rich and strange.
--Ben Steelman, "A novel turn, rich and strange," in The Star News (Wilmington, NC) 9 November 2014

from Robert E. Stutt's review

Youmans’ writing is breathtaking throughout this short novel.

from Notes from the Publishing Underground/Conundrum Press

Marly Youmans is one of those rare literary figures who excels at both poetry and prose, each informing the other. Her latest novel, Glimmerglass, is a beautiful and skillfully told modern-day fairy tale. Cynthia Sorrel is a failed artist trying to rediscover herself and her place in the world, and we are drawn with her into the scenic, slightly mysterious New England hamlet of Cooper Patent. The residents of Cooper Patent seem as serene and peaceful as the lake, Glimmerglass, beside which the village is nestled. There are of course secrets and jealousies lurking just below the surface, but Youmans lulls the reader into a dreamlike state until, as in all good fairy tales, she sinks the reader into the dark waters where reality is blurred and bent like a half-submerged stick. It is here that the reader begins to feel more than know the meaning of what happens to Cynthia. A gorgeous book that is quick to read and meaty enough to digest slowly, Glimmerglass is a wonderful novel with which to curl up next to a fire and spend chilly nights.
--Caleb Seeling, in Notes from the Publishing Underground (November 12, Conundrum Press)

from Books and Culture

Some years ago, I described the novelist and poet Marly Youmans as "the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers." That's still true today (so I think), and if you haven't tried Youmans yet, her new novel, Glimmerglass, is a very good place to start....

The artist's calling, "to see and to record all life that filled this world—all, all [Welty quote]," is just what Cynthia accepts, and just what Marly Youmans fulfills in this wonderful novel.

One last note. We hear a lot about bad news in the world of publishing. And there is a lot of bad news to report. But let me register that this particular book is not only beautifully written but also beautifully made. The illustrations, by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, are superb. The typography, the entire design of the book: all bespeak care and skill that rhyme with Youmans' art and the story she tells. Blessings to Mercer University Press.

--from John Wilson, "Glimmerglass," in Books and Culture Magazine, November 24, 2014


Speaking of superb novels, let me recommend two others that will be appearing not too long after you receive this issue. In September, Knopf will publish Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which imagines the aftermath of a global pandemic of unprecedented ferocity. We follow a wandering troupe as they make their circuit in the upper Midwest, stopping at tiny settlements to perform Shakespeare and play music. In the same month, Mercer University Press will publish Marly Youmans'Glimmerglass, set in Cooper country in New York State, a book in which the fantastic and the quotidian are cunningly interlaced. These two novels have very little in common except for the quality of their imagination—but that is more than enough to make them kin.
--"Letter from the Editor," Books and Culture Magazine, August 27, 2014

blurb from a novelist

Glimmerglass is a series of mirrors and panes than splinter and soften to let you fall deeper into the heart of myth and artistic desire. A resonant, beautiful exploration of fragile hopes and the courage that comes from resisting their trampling by others.

--Margo Lanagan, author of Sea Hearts, Black Juice, and others, winner of World Fantasy and Printz awards

from Bookloons

Hovering somewhere between myth and reality, Glimmerglass is a marvelous showcase for author Marly Youmans' talent... Highly recommended. 
--Barbara Lingen, BookLoons, October 2014

Perhaps it was a sense of estrangement from the everyday that drew Cynthia Sorrel to the village of Cooper Patent. The failed painter was lured by the gate house with its seven doors, the lake with its tower, and the magical air of a place that couldn’t quite decide whether it was fictional, mythic, or real. The gate house should have been a first clue that she was on a journey, and soon she begins to glimpse and then to pursue a figure in the woods near her house, convinced she has seen the Muse.  
As she reclaims her calling as a painter and moves deeper into the uncanny world of Cooper Patent, Cynthia is finds herself at the heart of a labyrinth of mystery. She will have to navigate its dream depths and secrets, brilliant or dark, locked behind a door that opens into the earth.  
Sébastien Doubinsky writes, “I cannot recommend an author more than Marly Youmans, whose fantastic prose is absolutely gorgeous and haunting.” Now this “best-kept secret among contemporary American writers” (Books and Culture) has scaled the tree of books and plucked twigs of gothic romance, ghost tale, medieval dream vision, and belated coming-of-age story, with a leaf or two from the novel of manners and fantasy. The transformed result, Glimmerglass, is a gift to literature like no other.
August 13th, and the book arrives at the warehouse!
Go here if you would like news on how to order
from Mercer with free USPS shipping and 20% discount.

Readers of literary fantasy will welcome the novel "Glimmerglass," the 12th book by Cooperstown author Marly Youmans. It layers gothic romance, ghost tales and medieval dream visions into a coming-of-age story set in the village of Cooper Patent. Albany Times Union 21 December 2014

A sample of the profuse interior decoration by Clive Hicks-Jenkins

A step on the way to the final jacket--soon the spine lettering would
shrink a little, and other minor tinkering would happen.
And a larger version here.

detail of the jacket by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
book design by Burt and Burt
Mercer University Press, September 2014

A detail from the cover art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
Clive is "known especially for narrative paintings and artist’s books.
His paintings are represented in all the main public collections in Wales,
as well as others in the United Kingdom, and his artist’s books
are found in libraries internationally. A retrospective exhibition
comprising some 200 works from across the artist's career
loaned from public and private collections was held by
the National Library of Wales in 2011 to coincide with his sixtieth birthday.
A substantial multi-author book devoted to his work was published
by Lund Humphries in 2011, in which Simon Callow called him
‘one of the most individual and complete artists of our time.'"

Mercer makes a postcard...


  1. Replies
    1. Death Zen, you're usually so articulate! XD

      Thanks, seriously--hope the real thing doesn't let you down... And I bet you didn't know I was a holy well! I love that.

  2. I was going to say the same thing - WOW! Congrats to both you and Clive!

    1. Thank you, Marja-Leena. Everything I've seen is wondrous-looking. I just saw the title page... utterly charming and lovely. I'm probably going to kiss that book when we meet in person. Clive and I are pretty thrilled with the meticulous design work of Mary-Frances Burt, too.

  3. must join ms Death there
    wow - the colours are fantastic..

    1. Death Zen usually has a lot to say, so I'm pleased that it got a big WOW... Yes, it's a cunning, lovely books. Wonderful interior decoration, too. Whee! It will be as beautiful as "Thaliad" and "The Foliate Head." Maybe more so!

    2. p.s. to Guy, Mr. Poetry Giveaway winner: Forgot to say that I mailed your books to Israel today, so keep a sharp lookout!

  4. It's a delightful, wonderful book.

  5. so i clicked on the link towards the top to check out Clive's work and it goes to a porn site.... fyi

    1. Aaaaaaaargh! Horrible. You're right--and I have now taken out the link and added a new one. However do they manage such things? Thank you very much for telling me.

    2. not a problem, it's one of the great mysteries of life :) haha

    3. Ummm, I've just read this! Oh my!!!!

    4. Who knows how many other links in our blogs are fiddled with in such a way? (And how do they do it, anyway?)


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.