"A good book shouldn’t make you comfortable. It should make you edgy.” – Christine Emmert
Maleficent: An Afterword
by Stant Litore
The greatest monsters—and the most beautiful angels—are those within
us. Christine Emmert understands this, and she reminds us of it with
wonder and terror. —No, “reminds us” is such a calm, rational way of
putting it. That is not what Emmert’s stories do. Her tales are neither
calm nor rational. They fall upon us with a shock, the way her wyvern in
The Nun’s Dragon
tears a hole in the sky and drops from the stars to earth, or the way
Lilith dives shrieking from the dark air, talons extended, to clutch up
baby mice or baby people. Emmert doesn’t remind us of anything. She compels us not to forget, compels us to look around at our world and at each other with wide-opened eyes.
The narrator of Lilith
tells us of her marriage to her husband: “Our own wedding vows baffled
him when I asked to be shackled to his naked beating heart in the anger
of winter.” To read a Christine Emmert story is to receive a
communication that is a little bit like that vow. Her fiction is wind
and dark wine; she draws us into scenes that are as finely and precisely
crafted as gardens, scenes that seem as carefully static and controlled
as gardens, or as medieval paintings. But then she stands behind us,
whispering the incantation of her story in our ear as we look on, and
suddenly thorns and briars tear their way through soil or canvas and
rear up dark all around us, as though she is Maleficent. Then we move
forward into the darker and more beautiful heart of the story—a story
we’d thought for a moment was just a pretty garden!—and the thorns cut
us as we go in, and we bleed.
Her prose is beautiful, but it is not for everyone. There is an
archaism to it that can prove either seductive or off-putting—as though
Emmert is standing at the very brink of language, with a chasm of
howling dark behind her, and before her the plateau of our modern
language and our modern thinking, with its convenient sentences and
figures of speech and comfortable ways of saying and hearing comfortable
and familiar things—as though these comforts are a stand of poplars
shielding our plateau from reality’s wind. She comes against our poplars
with blades fashioned from images and from fragments she has taken from
ancient ways of speaking, ways that we can no longer use but whose
edges still cut. Then, the poplars down, she lets in the wind. She lets
in the cold.
With our hair and our garments streaming behind us, we look out at a
landscape transformed by the storm, by the sudden onset: nothing is as
it was. Nothing is as we expect. We stride through the remains of our
poplars, our familiarities, and in doing this we meet our world again as
if for the first time, raw and rough with all of its potential—all of
its horror and all of its wonder—laid bare. No comfortable refuge to
protect us, no walls mortared with the hard bricks of our expectations.
might meet anyone in this wind, among these fallen trees: maiden or
dragon or dark shadow. And they will not be who we expect, and we, the
readers, will not be who we’ve thought we are. We might glance up and
see stars again, stars bright and burning, stars we have forgotten. Or
we might glance down and see blood we have spilled, blood we have
forgotten. But in either case, we will not be permitted to just stroll
quietly, blindly, in the shade of our poplars.
When you first step up to the medieval painting that a Christine
Emmert story appears at first to be, you might think you are strolling
in the shade of poplars. But you are not. Because the moment you are in,
those poplars will be torn aside, and you will be in the thorn thicket.
Emmert is Maleficent, not William Wordsworth. But, turning one page to
the next, you must ask: what unsuspected beauty sleeps behind these
thorns, waiting for you—you who are sleeping—to wake?
January 13, 2014
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
"A glance showed her the wide night sky behind the dragon, with its millions of sharp yet irreplaceable stars. The moon hung like a jewel. All that open sky, all that darkness in which to hide or fly. Reared against it in all his power and beauty was her dragon. For a moment, it seemed inconceivable to her that the convent had held her in, had been shut around her, when the whole universe was so open and full of starlight."
- The Nun's Dragon. On sale for $0.99
- The Nun's Dragon. On sale for $0.99
“An utterly enchanting and engrossing tale of the medieval heart.”- Novelist Stephanie Cowell
About “Lilith,” included in the volume: “As a mom, it truly freaked me out. Even though my child is seven, and isn’t in danger of being scooped up by a barn owl any time soon. While reading this book, my daughter was learning about eagles and owls in school and would run up and down the halls screeching and pretending to swoop down and snatch her prey. Freaky.”- The Eclectic Bookworm
“‘The Nun’s Dragon’ begins with an apparent suicide, then slips gracefully into the past to uncover the tragic, secret friendship between Sister Agnes Dei and Wyver, her dragon. This short novel is a complex narrative about loss of innocence and loss of certainty. It’s a story about the degree to which any church can comprehend or adequately reflect the compassionate nature of God.”The new arrival from Dante's Heart -- Christine Emmert's The Nun's Dragon -- is $0.99 (on the kindle) for the next 24 hours. I hope you'll read it!
- Scholar and writer Jonna Gjevre