Around mid-September, a limited edition of Mark Z. Danielewski's The Fifty Year Sword was announced with nothing more than a photo of an orange case featuring five metal clasps around its edges. The book was planned at an expensive (but reasonable) price of $100.00, but there was very little information available online about where to purchase this Deluxe Edition. I found the book on Amazon--they were taking pre-orders (with a hefty discount) for a few weeks, and then the book kind of vanished. The Deluxe Edition stopped appearing on Amazon searches and any digital presence for the book kind of dried up. Still, Amazon had my pre-order--the booked was marked as "not yet shipped" for about four months, and suddenly arrived in Brooklyn last week.
It's quite a nice piece, and very nice to see a book's design mirror its plot. The novel's eponymous sword is kept in a box with five metal clasps, and is ceremoniously opened at the end of the novel by the book's five narrators. I can't help but feel a little sinister each time I unlatch my copy of The Fifty Year Sword.
Inside is a signed copy of the trade edition (jacket and all), except this version has an exposed-stitch "Nepalese" binding. Again, this design decision mirrors the book's content--threading is a major visual (and textual) motif throughout The Fifty Year Sword and it's cool to see the book's structural makeup hidden underneath the jacket.
One complaint, however: the trade edition of the book has a very well-executed "punctured" jacket. It's something I've never seen before, and pushes the book further into the realm of an art-object. However, the jacket of the Deluxe Edition is EXACTLY the same as the trade version, straight down to the $26.00 price printed on the flap. While I appreciate the subtle design motifs of the Deluxe Edition (and appreciate the bound-in signature... more on that later) some might look at this and feel like they spent $74.00 on a metal-latched box. I'm very pleased with the book, but glad I didn't have to pay full price.
Another wonderful spin on this edition is the signature. The book feels very autumnal and is colored in a range of harvest hues (each narrator has their own orange-brown quotation mark preceding their lines), and Danielewski seems to be having a blast with the color scheme. Check out this photo of him prepping his signatures:
Judging from here, there's a bit of a gamble at play in the Deluxe Edition: will you get one 'Z' in your book, or five? Here's mine:
In all, The Fifty Year Sword is a really fun book to get lost in--it's very slight and much of its strength comes from its format, but I wholly recommend it to fans of experimental fiction. My full review can be read here:
And, you collector's out there: you should try to pick one of these boxed editions up, and hope for five Z's......
Pure by Julianna Baggott