Excerpt from Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Vaclav & Lena

A Novel

by Haley Tanner

Vaclav & Lena
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  • First Published:
    May 2011, 304 pages
    Feb 2012, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

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Print Excerpt


"Here, I practice, and you practice. Ahem. AH-em. I am Vaclav the Magnificent, with birthday on the sixth of May, the famous day for the generations to celebrate and rejoice, a day in the future years eclipsing Christmas and Hanukkah and Ramadan and all pagan festivals, born in a land far, far, far, far, far, far, far distance from here, a land of ancient and magnificent secrets, a land of enchanted knowledge passed down from the ages and from the ancients, a land of illusion (Russia!), born there in Russia and reappearing here, in America, in New York, in Brooklyn (which is a Borough), near Coney Island, which is a famous place of magic in the great land of opportunity (which is, of course, America), where anyone can become anything, where a hobo today is tomorrow a businessman in a three-pieces-suit, and a businessman yesterday is later this afternoon a hobo, Vaclav the Magnificent, who shall, without no doubt, be ask to perform his mighty feats of enchantment for dukes and presidents and czars and ayatollahs, uniting them all in awestruck and dumbstrucks, and thus, one day in the future years, be heralding a new era (which is a piece of time) of peace on earth. Ladies and gentlemans, I give you, I present to you, I warn you in advance of his arrival, so that you may close your eyes or put your hands on your face if you are afraid, Vaclav the Magnificent, Boy-Magician."

"Eh," Lena says in a grumbly voice.

"Lena, what we are having here is perfect introduction to the act. It is long and perfect and made of only the best and longest thesaurus words," says Vaclav.

"After third sentence, say, 'Magic is art of control events using supernatural powers,' " says Lena. This sentence is a favorite of Lena's - she memorized it from The Magician's Almanac, which is a big old black book with gold around the edges of the pages, all about magic and tricks and illusions. Vaclav kept checking the almanac out of the library, so last year for his birthday she put it in her backpack and took it home with her, so that she could give it to him for a birthday present, and it could be theirs forever.

"That sounds good, but is not belonging in the act. I already told you. This is the introduction, complete. Seal it now with the magic birthday candle." Vaclav folds the notebook paper on which the introduction to the act is written, and he holds it out to Lena. Lena does not take it from him. Lena holds the magic birthday candle in her left hand and rubs its spiraled ridges with her thumb. In her right hand, she holds the lighter with which she is to light the candle. The wax-dripping paper-sealing is an important part of anything Vaclav and Lena write, and it is Lena's job, exclusively Lena's, to light the magic birthday candle, to hold it high, and to then let the wax drip onto the folded paper, sealing it for all of time.

Under Vaclav's bed, next to a forgotten sock, among many gatherings of fuzzy, dusty things, is a shoe box full of pieces of notebook paper folded and sealed with Lena's wax drips. The things written on them are important declarations, pacts, lists, and other artifacts of the lives of the young magicians.

"We write and finish now, Lena, and tonight I will ask permission to have a show."

"Impossible," Lena says.

"Possible. I can make this happen. Maybe not tonight but soon. And so we seal the introduction, which means we can begin on the act. Once we have permission, we perform. Light. Melt. It is done."

"Unfold. Write. Magic is art of control events using supernatural powers."

"I will not, Lena, no. This is not part of the introduction of the act; this does not belong. It is very good English, but it does not belong. This is the introduction, which we must seal, so that it will be, and so that we begin work on practice the act."

Excerpted from Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner. Copyright © 2011 by Haley Tanner. Excerpted by permission of Dial Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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