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The Paper Grail

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Curator Howard Barton goes to Mendocino, California, to get a 19th-century woodcut sketch for his museum back home. But other, rather strange, people want the sketch for their own dubious purposes. Now Howard's caught in the middle of a secret war that somehow involves a piece of paper that is much more than it seems. Curator Howard Barton goes to Mendocino, California, to get a 19th-century woodcut sketch for his museum back home. But other, rather strange, people want the sketch for their own dubious purposes. Now Howard's caught in the middle of a secret war that somehow involves a piece of paper that is much more than it seems.


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Curator Howard Barton goes to Mendocino, California, to get a 19th-century woodcut sketch for his museum back home. But other, rather strange, people want the sketch for their own dubious purposes. Now Howard's caught in the middle of a secret war that somehow involves a piece of paper that is much more than it seems. Curator Howard Barton goes to Mendocino, California, to get a 19th-century woodcut sketch for his museum back home. But other, rather strange, people want the sketch for their own dubious purposes. Now Howard's caught in the middle of a secret war that somehow involves a piece of paper that is much more than it seems.

30 review for The Paper Grail

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eli Bishop

    This book has a lot in common with Blaylock's All the Bells on Earth , which is to say that they're both basically things Charles Williams might have written if he'd lived 50 years later in California and if he'd been a bit more cheerful. There's the same sense that cosmic magical systems are just ambling along like a friendly game of cards that people keep taking breaks from; that everyone's flawed, but that the bad guys' flaws are pettier and ickier; and that everyone, including most of the This book has a lot in common with Blaylock's All the Bells on Earth , which is to say that they're both basically things Charles Williams might have written if he'd lived 50 years later in California and if he'd been a bit more cheerful. There's the same sense that cosmic magical systems are just ambling along like a friendly game of cards that people keep taking breaks from; that everyone's flawed, but that the bad guys' flaws are pettier and ickier; and that everyone, including most of the bad guys, will probably be okay. Unlike All the Bells, this one is set on the coast of northern California, and there's a great sense of the landscape and the combined hippie/redneck culture (art cars play a major role). There's not much to most of the characters (especially the hero) and Blaylock tends to pile on chaos in the the denouement, but there's always some great piece of dialogue or physical detail to keep it grounded.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lissa Notreallywolf

    Blaylock has an ability to create a setting, which although populated by mad characters is as real as the taste mustard after a picnic. A museum curator, Howard, is a typical rootless drones, who returns to a coastal Northern California town familiar from his youth, with people from an era when his heart was more engaged. He has some dream-like episodes, and like one awakening from a long sleep, he is disoriented and confused throughout most of the book. Some of this is directed at an old flame Blaylock has an ability to create a setting, which although populated by mad characters is as real as the taste mustard after a picnic. A museum curator, Howard, is a typical rootless drones, who returns to a coastal Northern California town familiar from his youth, with people from an era when his heart was more engaged. He has some dream-like episodes, and like one awakening from a long sleep, he is disoriented and confused throughout most of the book. Some of this is directed at an old flame cousin Sylvia. The tower reminds me of Robertson Jeffers' tower, the Tor House in Carmel. Many of the characters have a Dickensian feel in this novel: the mad curator Jimmers, and Howard's Macawberish uncle. The bones of Rushkin are part of magical experiments which lurk in the background. One of the most charming aspects of the book is the cult of Gluers, people who reassemble bits and pieces to make art, shrines, and fantastic machines. In any small town with a depressed economy crafting becomes a desparate attempt to maintain sanity with the promise of a little income. Here it has become entangled in the fulfillment of desires somehow associated with Humpty Dumpty. And you know when you read Blaylock's books that there is always a heavy respect for the various kinds of love in the world-love of things yes, but more important the love of parents for their children, the love of friends who manage to heal betrayals, the genial tolerance of families for their stranger components, long term partners and a returned romance.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    An interesting quest by a man who starts out apparently looking for one thing...and ends up on a quest he never expected. Along the way he meets some strange, unusual, and meaningful people. I found myself a little surprised that I enjoyed this book, but I did. It's one of 2 Blaylock books I've read. I plan to read more. An interesting quest by a man who starts out apparently looking for one thing...and ends up on a quest he never expected. Along the way he meets some strange, unusual, and meaningful people. I found myself a little surprised that I enjoyed this book, but I did. It's one of 2 Blaylock books I've read. I plan to read more.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    I became completely immersed in this book. There's fog, and hippies who glue things onto other things, and a central strangeness, and at some point I realized I'd dropped all hints of analysis and was just reading to find out what happened. The main character has lost his purpose in life, leading him to fixate on a task he thinks he can do. Trying to do it leads him to find much more than he was seeking for, in an unpredictable and often silly way. A very lighthearted book, for all the fog and de I became completely immersed in this book. There's fog, and hippies who glue things onto other things, and a central strangeness, and at some point I realized I'd dropped all hints of analysis and was just reading to find out what happened. The main character has lost his purpose in life, leading him to fixate on a task he thinks he can do. Trying to do it leads him to find much more than he was seeking for, in an unpredictable and often silly way. A very lighthearted book, for all the fog and death.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dru

    3.5 stars; enjoyable and quirky. It took me a bit of time to get hooked but the characters are very distinctive even if you know where the plot is going.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    If the windup is better than the setup in "The Paper Grail," it's still another satisfying dose of James P. Blaylock's endearing oddness, a crackerjack finish leaving a nice afterglow. Yes, the first half of this 1991 novel (a re-read for me in 2020), can be a bit of a drag, but Blaylock has put enough fun and intriguing elements before us to hold interest: ghosts riding in a Studebaker; the forearm bones of Joseph of Arimathea lashed together for use as a dowsing rod; an odd machine that seems t If the windup is better than the setup in "The Paper Grail," it's still another satisfying dose of James P. Blaylock's endearing oddness, a crackerjack finish leaving a nice afterglow. Yes, the first half of this 1991 novel (a re-read for me in 2020), can be a bit of a drag, but Blaylock has put enough fun and intriguing elements before us to hold interest: ghosts riding in a Studebaker; the forearm bones of Joseph of Arimathea lashed together for use as a dowsing rod; an odd machine that seems to summon a ghost; roving bands of "gluers" who cover cars and such objects in adhered toys and doodads; a wooden Humpty Dumpty figure perched on a roof; an origami paper grail supposedly stained with blood from Golgotha. Blaylock swirls all this together in another charming "urban fantasy," though again there's not much urban about it in his usual North Coast California setting. Blaylock's everyman hero this time is Howard Barton, who is drawn to relatives on a visit up the coast and finds himself hip-deep in this fun bit of domestic surrealism. Howard has a nice (well, not so nice, actually) old-woman enemy in Mrs. Lamey. Things rarely get too fearsome in a Blaylock novel, and "The Paper Grail" is no exception. Even the bad guys are usually understandable in their motivations. "The Paper Grail" is a little bit shorter on the amusing oddness than Blaylock had usually brought to the table at this point in his career, but it hits the spot decently enough. "The Paper Grail" (3.5 stars) wins us over by the end. Blaylock hasn't yet written a truly great novel (and may never pull that off), but his winsome, odd tales nearly always are quite worthwhile, appealing enough that I've read every full-length book he's written since the first in 1982. (By the way, Goodreads calls this #2 in the Christian Trilogy, but don't let that put you off. It is not a sequel and has only a tenuous thematic link to the other books; read them in any order.)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    First, I'm horrified to see that it's been months since I updated my Goodreads page. Of course, I've barely updated anything FB-related or sourced for a while, something I hope to change. Meanwhile, I've gotten back in touch with James Blaylock, a writer I've known as a friend and an author I've read for something like 25 years. Somehow I'd managed to miss reading PAPER GRAIL, a story about a fairly quirky quest for an important piece of paper in a small community on the coast of northern Califor First, I'm horrified to see that it's been months since I updated my Goodreads page. Of course, I've barely updated anything FB-related or sourced for a while, something I hope to change. Meanwhile, I've gotten back in touch with James Blaylock, a writer I've known as a friend and an author I've read for something like 25 years. Somehow I'd managed to miss reading PAPER GRAIL, a story about a fairly quirky quest for an important piece of paper in a small community on the coast of northern California. Blaylock's characters are people you know -- people you might be. His voice is . . . well, it's chatty and California. If you like Wes Anderson movies such as MOONRISE KINGDOM or RUSHMORE, you'll enjoy PAPER GRAIL. Or almost any Blaylock novel.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tim Meechan

    This was the first Blaylock novel I read and I was immediately hooked. His quirky characters, even crazier plots, and ability to weave mysticism with reality, are matched by no one. I read this so many years ago so I will not try to summarize it or describe it's genius, but I am willing to guarantee you'll love it. This was the first Blaylock novel I read and I was immediately hooked. His quirky characters, even crazier plots, and ability to weave mysticism with reality, are matched by no one. I read this so many years ago so I will not try to summarize it or describe it's genius, but I am willing to guarantee you'll love it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Phillip

    Another great yarn about an unlikely hero caught up in an extraordinary plot based, like The Last Coin, on some of the mythology the arose about the origins of Christianity.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ben Loory

    so much fun. didn't want it to end. haven't enjoyed flipping pages like that in a long time. so much fun. didn't want it to end. haven't enjoyed flipping pages like that in a long time.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Stevenson

    Blaylock ruled weird *way* before weird was cool.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn V.

    this is one of the funnest, most unusual contemporary fantasy novels out there.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kari Gritzan

    Aaaaaah I love this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brown Robin

    I think Blaylock is the most underappreciated US horror writer. He's easily the equal of King, Rice, Koontz, et al. This novel disappointed me, though I suspect it's my fault. There's an aimlessness to the proceedings that didn't work for me, and the transfer of the Holy Grail to California doesn't seem right somehow. It's still very much a Blaylock novel, so don't let me dissuade you from reading it. For a first Blaylock, I recommend The Last Coin or Land of Dreams instead, if you care for my pr I think Blaylock is the most underappreciated US horror writer. He's easily the equal of King, Rice, Koontz, et al. This novel disappointed me, though I suspect it's my fault. There's an aimlessness to the proceedings that didn't work for me, and the transfer of the Holy Grail to California doesn't seem right somehow. It's still very much a Blaylock novel, so don't let me dissuade you from reading it. For a first Blaylock, I recommend The Last Coin or Land of Dreams instead, if you care for my preference.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jason Burns

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Liked this one even better than I remembered. X is lured to Northern California from LA by a letter from an old acquaintance who has what he remembers is a Hokusai sketch, and would like to sell it to the Getty Museum, where X is a curator. But the sketch turns out to be the holy grail, which is somehow created through origami from the sketch. Folding the grail allows certain people (not just anyone) to control the weather, and X has been drawn North as he has been selected by the ancient curren Liked this one even better than I remembered. X is lured to Northern California from LA by a letter from an old acquaintance who has what he remembers is a Hokusai sketch, and would like to sell it to the Getty Museum, where X is a curator. But the sketch turns out to be the holy grail, which is somehow created through origami from the sketch. Folding the grail allows certain people (not just anyone) to control the weather, and X has been drawn North as he has been selected by the ancient current owner, Michael, to become the keeper of the grail. X has an Aunt, Uncle, & female cousin in the area as well, and so stays with them. He has a thing for his cousin, which turns out to be ok (phew!) as she turns out to not be his cousin. Of course, a thing of such power draws evil forces toward it looking to possess it, and the villain here is Heloise Lamley, who is completely corrupted (and is the half-sister of the current keeper of the grail). Her minions are hilariously inept typical Blaylock buffoons. In typical Blaylock fashion, nothing is ever confronted head-on until the very end, resulting in no end of bizarre pranks and strange occurrences.

  16. 5 out of 5

    James

    My rating is probably closer to 2.5 stars, but I rounded up. This was the weakest book in Blaylock's Christian trilogy. While I thought the main protagonist was less of an odd-duck than the heroes of the other two books (The Last Coin and All the Bells on Earth), this book seemed more odd and obtuse than the other two. I was never quite sure why anything was happening and felt that most of the key elements of the book were discussed minimally and a lot of focus on minute events that didn't affec My rating is probably closer to 2.5 stars, but I rounded up. This was the weakest book in Blaylock's Christian trilogy. While I thought the main protagonist was less of an odd-duck than the heroes of the other two books (The Last Coin and All the Bells on Earth), this book seemed more odd and obtuse than the other two. I was never quite sure why anything was happening and felt that most of the key elements of the book were discussed minimally and a lot of focus on minute events that didn't affect the story one way or another. Having said that, I finished the book and did get a fair amount of enjoyment out of it. I think it is important to "go with the flow" when reading Blaylock; while enjoying the odd characters and not expect to really understand the mechanics of what is happening.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    This forms sort of a loose trilogy, apparently, with All the Bells on Earth, which I haven't yet read, and The Last Coin, which I read and enjoyed several months ago. Here, the various characters are on a quest for the Grail, which takes an odd, yet powerful form. I liked the misty north coast California setting, and I always like Blaylock's quirky characters, but I did think the plot took too long to get going. This forms sort of a loose trilogy, apparently, with All the Bells on Earth, which I haven't yet read, and The Last Coin, which I read and enjoyed several months ago. Here, the various characters are on a quest for the Grail, which takes an odd, yet powerful form. I liked the misty north coast California setting, and I always like Blaylock's quirky characters, but I did think the plot took too long to get going.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    I was disappointed with this Blaylock story. It is hilarious at times but the plot is not compelling enough for me to recommend to anyone but hardcore Blaylock fans. That said, I would like to move out to the west coast now, particularly the little town of Mendecino (if it exists) and buy an old boarded-up shack to for storing John Ruskin artifacts. The Last Coin is still number in my Blaylock list.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Pickle

    im giving this a 2/5 though i might amend to a 3/5 after some thought, or maybe after a re-read. This reminded me a david lynch setting, small town with small town people involved in something large but its not entirely obvious what it is. certainly one i will come back to in a 1 year or so to make a final judgement. :)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    First read around 1992.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Spoer

    My first Blaylock. It wasn't bad.... but I wasn't blown away by it. However, from what I've read about it, this isn't his best book. So I look forward to his other stuff. My first Blaylock. It wasn't bad.... but I wasn't blown away by it. However, from what I've read about it, this isn't his best book. So I look forward to his other stuff.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Neil Adams

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jim Sanderson

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ghanimatrix

  25. 5 out of 5

    Doug Chase

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nikita

  27. 5 out of 5

    Greg

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jane

  29. 4 out of 5

    Patty

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sid

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