The privilege of knowing Ellen Kushner

This seems to be the year of books being published what I have a vested interest in of such proportions that the fact of them being in print makes me all teary.

First there was Julie Phillips‘ long-awaited Tiptree bio, later there will be Yvette Christianse’s just-as-long-awaited debut novel Unconfessed, and right now there is Ellen Kushner‘s The Privilege of the Sword.

I’ve been a Kushner fan since 1988 when her first book, the unspeakably wonderful Swordspoint, helped get me through a tedious illness. My friend, Jane Pritchard (bless you, Jane!), loaned it to me along with a whole stack of other excellent books, but Swordspoint was the only one that I reread instantly. It’s been a touchstone ever since.

At the time it never occurred to me that one day I would meet Ellen and we’d become friends and I’d wind up staying in her and Delia Sherman‘s home in Boston. Which I did for the first time in 1999 and was instantly hit with women’s troubles. Gah!

When I’m miserable one of the things that cheers me up most is being read to. It’s a sign of just how at home Ellen & Delia made me feel that I demanded they read to me. Ellen dug out her abandoned sequel to Swordspoint and started reading me the adventures of Katherine whose uncle the Mad Duke Alec (one of the heroes of Swordspoint) forces her to learn swordfighting just because it amuses him to do so.

I was spellbound, completely lost in her story, and forgot all pain. Ellen kept reading until her voice was hoarse and there was nothing left to read. It was magical.

Here we are in 2006 and that book has finally been published. In its finished form The Privilege of the Sword is even wittier, more adventure packed, and exhilarating than I remember (which is saying something because that early draft was damned fine). I want to be Katherine when I grow up. Or possibly her uncle. Or maybe both.

Do yourself a favour and hie thee to your nearest book shop or library and grab a copy for yourself. You’ll love it. I promise!


  1. Barry Goldblatt on #

    It’s sitting on my nightstand begging to be read…but there’s all these manuscripts from clients and such that came first!

    I don’t suppose “Justine told me to” would get me off the hook with those folks for skipping Ellen ahead.

  2. Chris S. on #

    kushner, yay!

    We did a celebratory dance when we got an arc of PRIVILEGE OF THE SWORD. Which quickly turned into a ritual battle over who got to read it first. I won, but only ’cause I pulled rank.

  3. Justine on #

    Barry: Of course “Justine told me to” will work. Your clients will totally understand.

    Chris S.: Scott snatched my copy out of my hand thus delaying my reread. Her books are crack, people!

  4. shelly rae on #

    Perfect timing justine. I heard Ellen read from the book last night and earlier in the day I had the “pivilege” of having lunch with her and Delia. I’m in love with those women! Now I’m thinking about the perfect meals to have whilst I read the(ir) newest novel(s), yum! (Delia’s The Changeling is out now too!)

  5. Justine on #

    Once I’ve caught up on everything I’m going to reward myself with The Changeling. Can’t wait!

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