Seriously. I’d like to know if the events of my last 24 hours of reading are as weird as I think they are, and you can help me figure it out.
There are two snippets I encountered in the text that I would like to run by you. I’d just like to know if anyone else’s brain works like mine does.
The story begins with the line:
Just like that, and carries on from there with a new paragraph. Does that one line, “—sentences.” suggest anything at all to you? Anything come to mind?
The story is entitled:
“The Problem of Susan”
Any guesses what the story might be about? Remind you of anything at all?
You don’t have to give these tests a lot of time. If nothing comes to you right away, that’s fine. Now please scroll down aways and find out what happened with my brain.
The book I’m reading, of course, is Neil Gaiman…specifically his collection Fragile Things.
Test #1: In the story called “Strange Girls,” I read the line “—sentences.” and without a moment’s hesitation I thought “finish each other’s sentences.” I found that idea very curious at first, but then I thought, “Well, there’s some amusing irony in finishing someone else’s sentence when it actually ends in the words ‘sentences.’” The passage in question, it so happens, ends like this:
“Sometimes they even finish each other’s—”
I kid you not. And do not fail to notice the double irony (or are we on triple now?) that I am finishing Neil Gaiman’s not sentence, but story. Spooky.
[And I hope Neil will forgive me for spoiling any surprise. Please buy this book and make it up to him, it’s awesome. LOL]
Okay, I can let one spookiness go by unreported, but on to Test #2.
Test #2: From the moment I scanned the Table of Contents of Fragile Things and saw the title “The Problem of Susan,” only one thought came to my mind—Susan Pevensie. The older sister among the four Pevensies of The Chronicles of Narnia fame. It wasn’t weird to me that I thought of it, for to my mind there is indeed a problem of Susan…it’s the eventual fate of Susan that is pretty much the only problem with the Narnia books. I did not for a moment though seriously think Neil Gaiman was going to write a story about Susan Pevensie in order to work out his discomfort over her fictional fate. Then I read this in the story’s introduction: “There is so much in the [Narnia] books that I love, but each time I found the disposal of Susan to be intensely problematic and deeply irritating.” And that was exactly what the story was about.
Cue the Twilight Zone theme.
So this is why I wanted to find out if anyone else out there scored 100% or even 50% on my tests. Just how weird is it that I’m tracking like this with Neil Gaiman’s thought patterns? Now before you call the men in the white coats, let me reassure you. I do not think I’m psychically linked with the man or that we share a brain. Speaking to that issue, I must mention that I found “The Problem of Susan” probably the most horrific (not badly written, but horrifying) story I’ve ever read. That was fully Neil’s intent but he went way overboard in my opinion—I almost couldn’t read it. So sometimes he is, if anything, like me turned inside out.
It does, however, make me wonder. Are we perhaps products of the same sort of imagination (although clearly we imagine quite different things)? Did we just read a lot of the same books? (He did dedicate Fragile Things to my two favorite science fiction authors, Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury.) Or will a good 50% of the population that happen to be fans of Narnia give the same answers on Tests #1 and 2 as I did?
I can’t tell you what it does to a person’s psyche to feel on the one hand like they have connected so well to an author’s imagination—disturbingly well—only to be slapped in the face by that author’s ability to go places you’d never dare and say things you shudder to hear. I am running back into the arms of C.S. Lewis for comfort.
And yet, I just know the next time Neil sets out down some shadowy, thorn-bound path, beckoning me along, I will traipse after him again, hanging on his every word. And occasionally guessing in advance what those words are going to be.