The first chapter of Spindle’s End (2000) is one of the most beautiful pieces of prose ever written. The first time I read it I wanted to hug it close and wrap it around me and live in it forever. I wanted to read it aloud to people. I didn’t much want to go on and read the second chapter. The problem with wonderful lush poetic prose is that it doesn’t always march well with telling a story. The requirements of writing like that and the requirements of having a plot don’t always mesh. Spindle’s End is almost too beautiful to read. It’s like an embroidered cushion that you want to hang on the wall rather than put on a chair. Look, it goes like this:
The magic in that land was so thick and tenacious that it settled over the land like chalk dust and over floors and shelves like slightly sticky plaster dust. (Housecleaners in that country earned unusually good wages.) If you lived in that country you had to descale your kettle of its encrustation of magic at least once a week, because if you didn’t you might find yourself pouring hissing snakes or pond slime into your teapot instead of water. (It didn’t have to be anything scary or unpleasant like snakes or slime—magic tended to reflect the atmosphere of the place in which it found itself—but if you want a cup of tea a cup of lavender and gold pansies or ivory thimbles is unsatisfactory.)
I read it when it came out, and I kept thinking about re-reading it, completing my read of it, to talk about here. Sometimes I got as far as picking it off the shelf, but I never actually read it again until now, because when I thought about actually reading those gorgeous sentences I felt tired and as if I wasn’t ready to make that much effort again yet.