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BRONZE MIRROR by Jeanne Larsen


by Jeanne Larsen

Pub Date: July 18th, 1991
ISBN: 0-8050-1110-2
Publisher: Henry Holt

 A dazzling extension of the author's Silk Road (1989)--not a sequel but a reprise, with new casting, of Larsen's time-riddling, worlds-whirling magical show, which again takes place in the palaces of the immortals (wherever they may be--some are underwater), also on the earth of medieval China (here, the Southern Soong of A.D. 1136), and spaces in-between. ``All desires bring about consequences.'' The Yellow Emperor, his court, and the Silkweb Princess, his wife, with her seven goddesses-in-waiting, should have harkened to this wisdom of the bodhisattva, Guan-yin the Compassionate. But when the Emperor's minister reports he's worked out a system of symbols, writing and illustration ensue. Stories are invented, and through a story competition, desires are pricked, and ``souls are now set in motion.'' The core tale is that of Pomegranate, maid to the sad Lady Phoenix, who may or may not rise from the ashes of a cruel and miserable household, a dead absent husband, a burnt city. Refractions from Pomegranate's story fly about: a scholar visits hell; a luscious ghost visits a river god; the Moon Goddess (on the go in Silk Road) has a brief cameo; and local deities dread the time when they ``become no more than a story.'' Meanwhile, the Yellow Emperor's court buzzes with the gossip of story-lives: love, lust, quests, obligations, deaths, etc. But alas for the immortals when Guan-yin delivers a sentence, and there's a butterfly- brilliant GîtterdÑmmerung. Again, as in Silk Road, Larsen disarmingly parodies the pith and polish of ancient Chinese myth, with wit and poetic/pictorial pyrotechnics. A quite special pleasure.