Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Honey Month, Day 1 (2/1/2011)

A note, first, on what I'm doing. Last February, Amal El-Mohtar wrote a series of short stories and poems in response to a selection of honey that one of her friends sent her. The result is a slim book called The Honey Month, with 28 little pieces of writing and 28 descriptions of honey. I reviewed the book back a ways, and I liked it, but thought it might be better if read slower. So, this month, I will read one selection a day, and make a short comment about them.

Amal is a lovely person, one of those people who makes writing look easy. In addition to this book, she has a poem in the most recent Borderlands (Welcome to Bordertown) book, and a short story in SteamPowered, a collection of lesbian Steampunk fiction. She also edits Goblin Fruit, an online zine.

I'm going to include the honey descriptions, but you'll have to buy the book for the rest:

"Day 1 - Fireweed Honey

Smell: Slightly resinous, warm, not very strong.

Colour: Mellow gold, an almost "typical" honey colour - what you'd imagine saying "honey tones" would mean, referring to hair or wood.

Taste: Gentle. Very similar to clover honey, but not quite as sweet: mellow, kind. No unusual notes; all I can think is "mm, honey," but without that extra quality that makes me so keenly understand the line from Romeo and Juliet where honey is "loathsome in its own deliciousness," where the sweetness takes on an added dimension so different from sugar, in a way that scrunches your nose when you're a child but closes your eyes when you're grown up. If I were to attempt to be sophisticated I'd say it was understated. Delicious, all the same."

The story here feels a little incomplete. I recall that I spent much of the rest of the book hoping there would be more to this particular story. As I mentioned in my earlier review, much of the fiction is reminiscent of Cat Valente, to whom the work is dedicated. This piece, with its dreamy protagonist and its star girl, is particularly in the Valente mold. This is not to suggest that it is derivative - Amal has a strong voice which is entirely her own - merely that it is easy to see the influence of the one upon the other here. Anyway, a tantalizing first taste, mysterious and sweet, but not cloying, with a hint of danger and wildness. Delightful.

ETA: Amal is re-running the original blog posts that were eventually collected as The Honey Month, with additional commentary, starting here. You should go and take a look, you won't regret it.