To Sail the Starless Sea
November 12, 2019
You are here because you wish to sail the Starless Sea and breathe the haunted air…– Erin Morgenstern, The Starless Sea
Every once in a while, you find what I like to call a “soul-book.” A book that reaches way down inside you and finds the things you’ve never told anyone: the hidden wishes, the forgotten longings, the strange things you secretly think only you find so compelling, so heartwrenching, so beautiful. That’s what Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea has been to me, a soul-book. It feels so much like a piece of me that I almost feel odd talking about it, feel worried about sharing it with others. Part of me wants to guard it jealously, keep it close, but the greater part of me needs to share it with as many people as possible, so that you can all experience this kind of wonder and magic.
(Sara, upon reading this paragraph, said, “Brittany, this is the most Scorpio thing I’ve ever read in my life.” Sara stands by this statement and also understands what Brittany is saying here.)
When our dear friend Grace told us that she had managed to score an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of The Starless Sea, I was so excited I couldn’t contain myself. I had adored Morgenstern’s first novel, The Night Circus, and had been eagerly awaiting her follow up book for years (alongside many, MANY other people!) Grace kindly offered to lend it out once she had finished reading it, and I was lucky enough to be second on the list. Grace’s glowing response to the book (which you can read on Instagram here, along with her great photo!) indicated that I was going to love it too, but I really wasn’t prepared for, you know, clutching the book to my chest and practically weeping over certain passages (no joke!)
This is a book for people who love stories. People who know how powerful stories can be, how much enchantment they can bring into the world, and how much they can mean in the darkest of times. It’s a novel for those of us who love curling up with a book and a nice cup of tea, for those who share hilarious stories around the dinner table, for those who climb up and read their Kindles in trees, for those who collect fortune cookies, those who make up stories to tell their children at bedtime, those who get engrossed in the plots of video games, those who read the stories in tarot cards, for obsessive movie watchers, and for so many others as well. This is a book that recognizes that books are not the only ways we get stories – that stories are all around us, all the time, and if we look, we can see them, feel them, even speak with them.
Alan Moore once said that “Magic is Art and Art, whether it be music, writing, sculpture or any other, is literally magic,” and I very firmly believe that. There is real magic in the world, and you can find it through stories and all other forms of art. And that is what The Starless Sea is – real magic/art in book form.
I’m trying very hard not to give spoilers here… it’s difficult, because I want to gush about every little thing, but instead I will just give you a tiny thing I especially loved –
I heard Erin Morgenstern speak recently about how she thinks the “Morgensternian” style is (and I’m paraphrasing here) “a little bit fantastical, a little bit grounded in reality… and there are probably cats somewhere.” I whole-heartedly agree, and to me that is one of the biggest strengths of the book. The everyday world mixes with the fantastic world in ways that seem 100% true. In one of my favorite parts, the main character follows another character through a magical door and winds up in NYC’s The Strand bookstore, one of my favorite places on earth. The two of them then proceed to hit a Starbucks, where they get a secret code by ordering a particular drink. These are the everyday magic things that I love so very desperately!
Note how Zelda can mean “Princess or Fitzgerald” too :). Morgenstern is firmly in OUR world. Her characters have cell phones and love video games and have read Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia (Morgenstern has said that that was a very deliberate move on her part, because, really, how weird is it that Harry Potter never read any previous fantasy novels in his closet under the stairs!) They go to Starbucks and have dyed pink hair and are in graduate school. But their/our world is also magical, and there is so much hidden everywhere if we just know to look. If we “brave the poetry.” And that’s how I want to go through life – remembering that there is magic all around me, even while I’m ordering my grande soy chai with no water, no foam, and light cinnamon on top and scrolling through Facebook on my iPhone.
And a lot of that magic is in our beautiful, weird, wonderful stories.
I was recently lucky enough to attend an Erin Morgenstern reading, Q&A, and signing in DC (that’s where I heard her talk about her style so perfectly!) It was great to meet her and tell her how much her book meant to me, even if it was just for a few seconds.
I also got her to sign and personalize my copy of the book (yes, I bought my own ARC after I had to send Grace’s on to the next person… I couldn’t wait for it to come out to have my own copy AND the ARC is the only edition that has the original release date of November 19th on the spine… November 19th just happens to be my birthday, so that made it extra magical!)
So yes, please, please go out and find this novel – I waited to make this post until it was officially released and it’s available everywhere now! Read it, savor it, and then write me here or over e-mail about what you thought, because I would love to know :).