the water is wide

Edinburgh, the first novel by Alexander Chee, is the best book I’ve read so far this year. The subject matter is difficult, but the writing–with its repetitions, its wondrous quality, its innocence–lures the reader forward.

“Blue. Blue because it’s the color people turn in the dark. Because it’s the color of the sky, of the center of the flame, of a diamond hit by an X ray. Blue is the knife edge of lightning. Blue is the color, a rose grower tells you, that a rose never quite reaches.”

The book is structured in four sections. The story is Fee’s, but his story goes deeper and wider with Chee’s decision to cede the narration to Warden in one of the sections:

  • I: Songs of the Fireflies (Fee)
  • II: January’s Cathedral (Fee)
  • III: And Night’s Black Sheep Upon the Eyes (Warden)
  • IV: Blue (Fee)

In its 3-page Prologue, Chee writes so simply:

“This is a fox story. Of how a fox can be a boy. And so it is also the story of a fire.”

Throughout the novel, these images recur : voice, death, monsters, pictures, foxes, fire, blue, storytelling, singing, and water.

I want to write like this:

“On the pages in front of me, the words dissolve a bit, the letters thinning until I can see, on the other side of them, like spying through a wire fence, the pictures of Peter I have collected inside of me…”

Edinburgh was published in 2001.

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17 thoughts on “the water is wide

  1. Thank you! It’s amazing with the mile high “to read pile”, at times I find myself with the need for A REALLY GOOD WRITE. Now I know what to read next.


    • Maife, I totally know what you mean. Sometimes you just want to know for sure the book is going to be good. Well, this one is. Nice to see you here again and love your new website!


  2. Can’t wait to read it. I heard Alexander Chee speak at the AWP conference in Denver. His essay on working with Annie Dillard is also great!


    • Lucia, it’s nice to see you here. Was that the panel on intimacy and sex? How was it? Chee’s essay on Annie Dillard is wonderful. I did a post on it back in October. Actually, it was how I first heard of him.


  3. Pingback: it’s been another year | catching days

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