Book reviews. Smoking Poppy, Graham Joyce. White Apples, Jonathan Carroll.

Smoking Poppy.


When a baby is born the fontanel at the top of the head yawns open. You fill the hole with shimmering, molten, free-running love, where it sets and hardens over the hole with something like bone. But for the first few weeks of a baby’s life, you are intoxicated by the extraordinary scent of its head. […] After the first year this perfume thins out, but it never deserts the child entirely. So you keep hugging. Every time you pick up that infant you look for an opportunity to get her hair under your nostrils so you might get a hint, a hit, once more, of the perfume of heaven.

And it gets better from there. In brief: not a fantasy novel, but one that should appeal to fantasy readers. If you haven’t read Graham Joyce’s Tooth Fairy, you’ve missed one of the most fascinating fantasy novels written recently–both books are the opposite of epic fantasy. They’re a mixture of light-dark, like an organic, intimate, familiar (and both about families) M.C. Escher drawing. Amazing, just amazing writing.

Graham Joyce’s website.

White Apples.

I’ve never done acid. People used to ask me all the time: Have you done too much acid? Are you on acid now? Is this what an acid trip looks like? Well. That’s just the way my head works, folks. Apparently, there are other people out there whose heads work in a similar fashion. Jonathan Carroll is one of them…you saw where that was going, didn’t you? Well, no, you didn’t. Like anything that’s an alternate state of reality, the described cannot approach the experienced. So what I’ll give you here aren’t descriptions, but enticements: Plot is this man’s plaything, his love slave, his cruel toy. But that’s all right, you won’t mind being dragged around, even when the end of the book leaves you wondering when the beginning of the book was supposed to have begun. The characters involve you, delight you, contradict themselves, fall apart–as characters–and come back together again. Unlike Smoking Poppy, this book isn’t a classic fantasy so much as a fantastique, sharing more with movies like Moulin Rouge and Open Your Eyes than The Lord of the Rings or even Legend. Dizzying and wonderous: if the man’s name wasn’t Charles Dodgson, I’d say the two were related…

Jonathan Carroll’s website.