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Literature / The Fifty Year Sword

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One sword will kill a season. One will kill a country. One I'm making now will even kill an idea.

The Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z. Danielewski was originally published in 2005 under a limited release, and was republished in October 2012 in a newly formatted and updated edition.

Five speakers (it's unclear who they are: they might be the five orphan children, or someone else entirely) tell the story of an unusual Halloween night in East Texas, where one Belinda Kite is having her 50th birthday. Chintana, a local seamstress, finds herself in attendance despite the fact that Belinda cheated with Chintana's husband, leading to Chintana's divorce. During the night, Chintana comes across five orphans and their social worker, who in turn says that she's invited a storyteller to tell them a ghost story. The man turns out to be a huge shadowy figure bearing a sword with no blade—according to him, a Fifty-Year Sword.

This being a Mark Z. Danielewski book, it goes downhill from there.

The Fifty Year Sword contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: The title sword, which can cut through anything at least fifty years old.
  • BFS: One of the swords the Man with No Arms made is described as being more than a sky long. Perhaps not a conventional BFS, but still.
  • The Chessmaster: Possibly Mose Dettledown.
  • Jerkass: Belinda Kite. Later becomes an Asshole Victim
  • Painting the Fourth Wall: Not as prevalent as House of Leaves or Only Revolutions, but the retelling of the story is designated by five different colors of quotation marks to signify the five narrators (hinted to be the five orphans in the story). Occasionally the text will be modified to reflect the storyteller's journey.
  • Shout-Out: A single-word reference to Danielewski's previous works. When the word "always" is used, the word "allways" appears later in the same sentence, surrounded by blue, purple, green, and gold quotation marks.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Five of them, to be exact.