The Bread We Eat in Dreams – Catherynne M. Valente

About the Book

Subterranean Press proudly presents a major new collection by one of the brightest stars in the literary firmament. Catherynne M. Valente, the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and other acclaimed novels, now brings readers a treasure trove of stories and poems in The Bread We Eat in Dreams.

In the Locus Award-winning novelette “White Lines on a Green Field,” an old story plays out against a high school backdrop as Coyote is quarterback and king for a season. A girl named Mallow embarks on an adventure of memorable and magical politicks in “The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland—For a Little While.” The award-winning, tour de force novella “Silently and Very Fast” is an ancient epic set in a far-flung future, the intimate autobiography of an evolving A.I. And in the title story, the history of a New England town and that of an outcast demon are irrevocably linked.

The thirty-five pieces collected here explore an extraordinary breadth of styles and genres, as Valente presents readers with something fresh and evocative on every page. From noir to Native American myth, from folklore to the final frontier, each tale showcases Valente’s eloquence and originality.

336 pages (hardcover)
Published on December 31, 2013
Published by Subterranean Press
Author’s webpage
Buy the book

I don’t know how I managed to live with myself before I read a Catherynne M. Valente book. I know that sounds dramatic, but this woman has come to be the person who defines how I judge exceptional writing. I can’t praise her mad skills enough.

So basically she’s one of my absolute favorite authors, and you all should read her stuff.

I got The Bread We Eat in Dreams as a deal on my kindle, knowing next to nothing about it. I saw that a Valente book was $1.99 that day, and I jumped on it – no more information necessary.

I’ve been digging short stories and novellas recently. They seem to fit into my chaotic life a bit better. I can break them up and devour them bit by bit, as is convenient for me. I don’t have to find good stopping points, they just naturally occur. It’s nice. So when I realized that this book was full of short stories, I was pretty thrilled.

If you’re familiar with Valente’s work, you’ll probably recognize some of these stories/novellas/poems. You might have read them before, or seen them somewhere. However, there are plenty here that are new, so don’t let that take you away from this collection.

The Bread We Eat in Dreams is a varied collection of work, from biopunk (uh, is that a thing?) to fairytale retellings. In typical Valente style, you can easily read these stories/novellas/poems for the sheer elegance and perfection of her writing, as for the story itself. What thrills me the most about her writing is that she’s so good at making the complex easy to absorb, and she’s marvelous at taking what you think you know, and spinning it on its head. Furthermore, she’s one of the only authors who can confuse me, and make me beg for more.

More. I just want more. I’ll take anything Valente writes. I can’t get it fast enough.

The Bread We Eat in Dreams covers a huge amount of ground. There is the story of the coyote who becomes king, a twist on Little Red Riding Hood, a futuristic world, dystopian settings, societies ruled by women and so much more. The book itself covers just about everything, but in true Valente fashion, it leaves you thinking deep thoughts, and gives you seeds of new ideas to plant in your soul.

While these stories span the gamut of topics, her writing does as well. Some stories start out subtle and then hit you over the head with their powerful emotions and their obvious plot. Some stories are obvious at the start, but it’s really the details that wow you. Regardless of how she’s writing, Valente welds words like a carpenter welds a hammer – they are a tool and a weapon, and she’s one of the most skilled individuals with her craft in the market today.

If you haven’t read Valente, but you’re curious about her style, and what she’s all about, The Bread We Eat in Dreams is an absolutely fantastic place to get a feel for her. Just be prepared to lose a few hours of sleep to this book. It is almost impossible to put it down after you pick it up. If you’re a seasons Valente reader, this is still a fantastic work to pick up. It’s some of her best writing, all kept in one neat and tidy location that is easy for you to access.

I really have been enjoying short stories and novellas recently, and collected works of this nature have been my bread and butter this year, but hands down, The Bread We Eat in Dreams is one of the best ones I’ve ever run across. This isn’t a book you own. This is a book you cherish.


5/5 stars


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