Candle Land — Mark Valentine

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“the Candle Land, from Candlemas to Candlemas”

“I might be a bit mystical at this point and say that I knew”

Not Imbolc so much as Graal, this is possibly, for me, Mark Valentine’s greatest work ever, and that is saying a great deal. It is the artist as conduit, the candle land as a piece of rough ground that is somehow otherwise valuable, plus an honestly crafted, grafted but magical genius loci that truly exists, trees as potential candelabra or ‘outer algebra’, and a land bordering on others vaguely seen through the veil of words. A narrator who shares this narration with a woman, alternately, not a collaboration. It is perfect, as we experience a humble ritual or ceremony with a candlestick, where tenants of the poor squire (the first narrator) bid for the Candleland when the candle in the candlestick snuffs itself out after watching it burn. The woman narrator wins. The implications and the soul of this story will be bespoke to you as individual reader, I am sure, separately sharing this exquisite story as we do, but perhaps not this time triangulating and collaborating our reactions to it … along with all its shifting angles and shadows and reflections.

“I watched the candle as it wore down and the pale wax tears dripped down the column (it had been my job as a boy afterwards to prise out the stub with a pen-knife and carefully scrape off the drips, and it still was now) and finally it began to sputter.”

***

My own separate contribution to its coordinates (that you do not need to click on so as to maintain the purity of your own vision of the story’s visionariness) is here, an ancient prose poem of mine, so different from the Valentine, but perhaps your perusal of it may blight or even complement Candle Land with a different narration. A ‘shadowy third’ as it were to the Valentine story’s two. The risk is yours. Null Immortalis.

Full context of above review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/05/19/the-fig-garden-other-stories-mark-valentine/#comment-24701

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