Monday, June 28, 2010

Magic Street by Orson Scott Card

 A Midsummer Night's Dream transported to the twenty-first century and set with an all Black cast in Baldwin Hills, a "mixed middle-class" African American neighborhood of longstanding in Los Angeles, Magic Street exhibits many of Orson Scott Card's best qualities as a writer--soaring prose, strong characters, wild creativity--and yet, ultimately, falls somewhat flat.  

Mack Street is a changeling, found as a newborn in the wild area near a park in Baldwin Hills and raised by Miss Ura Lee Smitcher, a stern spinster nurse.  Mack is a being of conscience and great heart, who grows up roaming the neighborhood, welcome in all houses; in his early teens he discovers a hidden house in which Puck--yes, that Puck--lives, masquerading as a homeless man.  From there, it's just a small step to Fairyland, and adventures galore.  

Many of the human characters are exquisite, as are Card's descriptions of the landscape of Fairyland and how it intersects with our world.  In the end, however, it's not the big showdown between good and evil that plays out on a freeway overpass in Century City that's most exciting about this book; rather, it's the Acknowledgments section at the end, in which Card tells how he came to write the book and why he wanted to do so.

Charles de Lint's Newford Stories, set in the fictional Canadian city of Newford, are a must-read.  In this series the lines between the "real" world and the Otherworld are often blurred and easy to cross; the characters are faeries and humans, usually artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people.  The Onion Girl and Widdershins are two that I have particularly enjoyed; although there are many of the same characters from book to book, this is not a series proper and it is not necessary to read them in any particular order.

No comments: