Literary Affairs

On Re-reading Charles de Lint’s Someplace to be Flying

Anyone who thinks that a story once written is a fixed thing that does not change only needs to re-read a favorite novel some ten years or so after they first read it. They will find that their perception of it will most likely be different. Such is the case here, as I last read Someplace to be Flying over a decade ago.

I should note de Lint was kind enough to send me an ePub version that I read on my iPad, which I admit also changes the way I perceive a story. Though I like physical books and indeed I have this novel in the lovely British edition, I find myself reading almost exclusively using the iPad these days, as the ability to adjust font, font size, and even the look of the ‘paper’ is a wonderful thing indeed!

However that’s not why I asked de Lint for a digital copy. I just wanted an excuse to read it once again after not reading it, as I noted above, for almost a decade. And unlike Forests of the Heart which is available in a digital format, Someplace to be Flying has not yet available that way. (Neither is The Little Country except in some obscure format that virtually no one can actually read these days using commonly available ebook readers.)

Someplace to be Flying was published in 1998 and was the fifth of his Newford series following A Whisper To A Scream (originally credited to Samuel M. Key), I’ll Be Watching You (also originally credited to Samuel M. Key), Memory and Dream, and Trader. All you need to know is that Newford is his imaginary North American city populated with human and things most definitely not human, such as the Crow Girls that you’ll meet here. It also has more musicians, artists, and writers as principal characters than bears thinking about!

However here they come across as fully rounded characters overcoming a slight weakness of de Lint that shows up in some of the other Newford novels in that it often seems the characters are more tropes than individuals. Not so here as even the two Crow Girls, who easily could be a trope for all things magical, feel all too real, and de Lint has a more sure hand in explaining *why* magic exists than he does in some of the other Newford based stories.

I will admit that I got a lot more out of Someplace to be Flying from having read the entire cycle of Newford as told in novels and short stories than I did in the first reading as I pretty much understand his metastory now. That said you can read Someplace to be Flying without reading anything else of his Newford books just as you could read the next Newford novel, Forests of the Heart, without reading anything else. After that, you really need to have read extensively in this series to make sense of what’s going on.

Someplace to be Flying is de Lint telling his creation myth in full detail. Now while that might sound dreadfully boring like a university lecture at its worst, it is not as it’s told most superbly through the stories of human, First Folk, and those of mixed blood. And it’s told in an usually gritty manner for de Lint as you can read here.

Ranging from the background of the First Folk (who you discover are not really the true First Folk) to the rather rough aspects of Newford itself, everything here is well drawn. Like Forests of the Heart, I think it works better as a fully realized depiction of Newford than any of the many other Newford based novels do.

I’m reluctant to describe the story in any meaningful detail as it really could be spoiled by doing so. Suffice it say that that though all will work out rather well in the end, how it works out is not something that you as the reader will anticipate.

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