Immediately, one is lost, eyes-deep in the paradox of the
riddle behind the riddle. There is no time to take a breath
before the reader is tossed into the visceral landscape of
Valente’s rich, textured lyric madness.
There are no clews to lead us (and no clues either, for readers
who may be unfamiliar with the piece of string heroes traditionally
used to find their way out of mazes) out of this stark land.
Without past or future filled with devouring doors, staircases
spiraling to nowhere, dark angels, magus monkeys, philosopher
crocodiles, key-crafting lobsters, and complacent March hares.
This is Alice in Wonderland as Kierkegaard would have written
it, an angst-filled and lonely antiquest where all things that
appear in essence are, in fact, existence, the nothing, the
truth devoid of meaning.
Valente’s protagonist, a chameleon Alice without a name,
is a “Seeker-After” called darlingblue/green/red/gold/glass
who does not believe she will ever find anything. Thus, she
accepts and rejects, sporadically, as she moves through the
terrible jungle-dessert-sea downdowndown of the maze and its
Darlingblue is this century, this millennium, this existence,
sticking her fingers into her maze-mind and tasting them
to find they taste of nothing; smelling them to find they
of nothing. She walks and walks, knowing and not knowing
where she is or how it is that she got there, only that
always be there.
The Labyrinth hath no limits, nor is circumscribed in one
self place; for where we are is the Labyrinth, and where
is, there must we ever be.
What is this Labyrinth? Who lures her and leaves her in
it? How did she come to be there, and why is she never
The coiled maze belies the concept of a cycle. The Labyrinth
is not a traditional novel; the plot does not offer
answers. It is not about escape. It cannot be. Between
of this novel Valente has masterfully crafted the Minotaur
existential angst that chases our generation, and all
those before it.
Catherynne M. Valente wrote her first poem at 10, but
did not consider herself a writer until she was 14-years-old.
first published at 19 and by 24 had written The Labyrinth
and The Book of Dreams (to be released by Prime in
2005), an exploratory
journey of the self through the rudiments of quantum
Valente is currently working on a novel based on
the lives of the Knights of the Round Table from
She lives in Yokosuka, Japan with her husband.