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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Harp, Pipe and Symphony by Paul Di Filippo

Harp, Pipe and Symphony by Paul Di Filippo. Holicong, Pennsylvania: Prime Books, 2004.

While I'll be indexing this book in my fantasy index, if I had to more precisely describe the genre into which it falls, I'd say “adult faerie tales.” I use that spelling deliberately. According to the Wikipedia, “In mythology and in fiction, Faerie (also Faery) is an otherworldly realm, home to the Fae or fairies.” Of course, one could use Chaucer's spelling, from whose verse the book takes it's title:

Heere is the Queene of Fayerye,
With harpe and pipe and symphone,
Dwellynge in this place.

Although only the ending of the book actually takes place IN the land of Faerie, the rest of the story involves a set of traditional trials aimed at the hero proving himself worthy to make the journey. And reaping the ultimate, if perhaps too obvious, award for young heroes everywhere. Only most writers are not quite so graphic in their depictions of it, leaving slightly more to the imagination.

The Author's Preface gives us all the clues we need to make sense out of the denouement:

I first conceived of this novel at age eighteen. I wrote it ten years later, the longest work I had attempted until that date. Both the teenager who initially imagined Thomas Rhymer's adventures and the young man who transcribed them are charming and eccentric strangers to the fifty-year-old writing this preface. Still, the present author admires them both—at a suitable distance—and has resisted overmuch tampering with the fruits of their hard labors.

In other words, it probably wouldn't have been possible to find a publisher for this work until the author's reputation was otherwise firmly established. While I personally might have elected to omit the Epilogue, leaving that to the imagination, the overall effect is indeed charming, and provides a quick and easy read for anyone who might enjoy a good faerie tale, replete with vaguely allegorical implications.

Recommended for adults.

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