We have all felt the ethereal siren song of other universes — the thrilling suspicion that touching a certain ring may in fact suck you into a Wood Between the Worlds, or that if you walk just so between platforms nine and 10 at King's Cross Station, you might find yourself departing from platform nine and three-quarters. For some, the tingling sensation of magical lands fades after leaving childhood behind. But I still peer curiously into wardrobes, and thus here are three blazingly intelligent adult novels for the untamable Alice in all of us.
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Most people think of Fairy Tales as stories for young people, but not author Lyndsay Faye. She loves books that take her far away from her normal life, opening up secret magical worlds, and she has three to recommend. Here's her essay for our series Three Books.
LYNDSAY FAYE: We have all felt the ethereal siren song of other universes, the thrilling suspicion that touching a certain ring may in fact suck you into a Wood Between the Worlds. For some, the tingling sensation of magical lands fades after leaving childhood behind. But I still peer curiously into wardrobes, and so here are three blazingly intelligent adult novels for the untamable Alice in all of us.
Smokey Barnable of the great city suffered from a terrible case of anonymity before falling in love with the delicate giantess Daily Alice Drinkwater and finding himself part of a vast tale that is "Little Big" by John Crowley. He will travel by foot to Daily Alice's home at Edgewood, a faerie-touched mansion with whimsical proportions. What follows is a gorgeously rambling narrative. It's the story you would get if Charles Dickens had been asked to write a family drama about love, passing seasons, a clockwork model of the universe that seems to possess perpetual motion and the roles fate ordains for us.
It takes little time for the reader of "House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski to grow aware that tattoo shop apprentice Johnny Truant is an unconventional narrator. When he discovers an abandoned monograph critiquing a documentary film called "The Navidson Record," he finds himself obsessed. The film follows a family's discovery of a chilling hallway in their living room wall that ought to lead into their yard but doesn't. Layer upon layer of madness ensues, from the documentary filmmakers whose descent into the cold, featureless maze within the house ends in death, to the footnotes penned by an increasingly paranoid and frenzied Johnny. The textual commentators are madmen, the house self-aware and the book itself a horrifying love story told in poetically free-form typeface.
Inspector Tyador Borlu, the hero of China Mieville's "The City & the City," has a problem. He is trying to solve a murder that seems to have taken place in his town of Beszel, a grim and decaying metropolis at the far edge of Eastern Europe. But the trail leads him to the thriving modern boomtown of Ul Qoma, a second city superimposed upon his own in the identical physical space. The citizens of each metropolis have been trained since childhood to unsee the other reality whenever they encounter it, but Borlu's quest demands that he risk breach and work in concert with an Ul Qoman detective.
Whether you linger wistfully over ornate antique keys, wondering what secret worlds they unlock or just want to lose yourself in spectacular storytelling, these books are for you. They entertain while reminding us that the unexpected lies in wait around every corner. And that it may well catch up to you.
CORNISH: Lyndsay Faye is the author of "The Gods of Gotham." You can comment on this essay at our website. Go to nprbooks.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.