mint jelly

Friday, November 06, 2009

Brain Candy

Today I had a productive workday, including a long but invigorating meeting in Manhattan that got me out of the house, which is a nice change especially on a brisk, sunny day. I’m again wearing the light, loosely knitted lavender/mauve sweater purchased to go over last night’s sleeveless dress, that just so happens to perfectly match the streak of color in my hair. The streaks were initially bright blue, but whether I dye strands magenta or blue, they always wind up pale purple, which is fine with me. It just means my hair winds up matching a third of everything I own.

A half hour ago I was lying down on the air mattress we’d set up for our guest Brett and hanging out with my bookshelf, listening to the rare quiet. The computer in the living room, the one we call tv.local, went to sleep, and a moment later my desk computer here in the common room fell asleep as well.

When I don’t have pets or other people at home, I become very aware of the hum and breath of the computers. I like the words we use to talk about what they — the physical things — do. They sleep, they wake up, they crash and kernel panic and sometimes die, but usually come back. At night, they make new constellations and night lights. I thought about all the years I’ve lived alone in studio apartments with only my machines. I liked life then, but life is nicer now.

Between the radiators and my new corduroy pants, I was feeling cozy and peaceful and didn’t want to get up from the air mattress. I like feeling like I’m floating on a raft.

Zoning out at the books on the shelves, I remembered one I recently bought at the Brooklyn Book Festival, called “The Good Fairies of New York” by Martin Millar. I had never heard of this guy, and tend to shy away from anything that seems to weird and fanciful, until I remembered how I do actually like weird and fanciful, provided it’s done well. Neil Gaiman wrote the introduction for this book, and most of the jacket copy.

Gaiman writes, “Millar writes like Kurt Vonnegut might have written, if he’d been born fifty years later in a different country and hung around with entirely the wrong sort of people.”

If you read enough good books, or even enough book jackets, you start to realize that reviewers and authors are fond of comparing writers to Vonnegut (gah, would that I ever earned such a comparison) and this comparison can start to feel too eager or easily doled out, but I don’t think it’s true in this case (nor in the case of Nick Harkaway, who also gets compared to Vonnegut sometimes).

I wonder if the way I feel about Vonnegut is something normal for book lovers and publishers alike, and I might deserve to go to literary hell for saying this, as I love Kurt Vonnegut, think he’s a beautiful, amazing writer whose words and ideas were, and will always be, a gift to the world.... I just wish that he wrote about (I feel like such a jerk for what I’m about to say, really)... I just wish he wrote more that… wasn’t painfully to do with World War II. I have a family full of vets. Every holiday is Memorial Day.  I must always remember I love his writing, pick it up, or read something new, then remember, oh right, I’m also going to have to absorb the horrors of man’s inhumanity to man, and all the horrors of war, if I’m to read Vonnegut’s funny, insightful, and highly entertaining prose.

Reading Vonnegut-like authors means I get to enjoy the spirit, the humor, the cleverness and warmth, with some, of course, but fewer encounters of man’s inhumanity to man. For this I am both grateful, and a shallow, fuzzy-sweater-wearing, purple-haired fluff-head jerk.

So yeah, anyway, The Good Fairies of New York is, “a story that starts when Morag and Heather, two eighteen-inch fairies with swords and green kilts and badly-dyed hair fly through the window of the worst violinist in New York… and vomit on his carpet.”

It’s going to be some delicious, delicious brain candy. And you know what? I’m super excited to read it.

According to Gaiman, Martin Millar is much better known and loved in the UK and just hasn’t made it to our American radar for whatever reason, most likely because we don’t know what to do with Scottish fairies who like to eat magic mushrooms, or violinists who realize that the Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated” is what folk music is all about.

Now, back to floating on my raft with my brain candy at the beginning of the first real weekend I’ve had in months.

[update]

LOL, mini-excerpt, page 3:

“What the hell are you?” demanded the squirrel.
“We are fairies,” answered Brannoc, and the squirrel fell on the grass laughing, because the New York squirrels are cynical creatures and do not believe in fairies.

Meanwhile, back on Fourth Street, Dinnie swallowed a mouthful of Mexican beer, scratched his plump chin and strode confidently into his room, convinced he had imagined the whole thing.
Two fairies were sleeping peacefully on his bed. Dinnie was immediately depressed. He knew that he did not have enough money to see a therapist.

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