Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Embrace the Anguish
I guess it’s time for another update for those of you fretting daily about the status of my Neil Gaiman crush. I survived the delight that was Anansi Boys (our dark hero truly can write a happy ending, much to my surprise). Even though it was technically C.S. Lewis in the ondeck circle, I cheated and moved on to another Gaiman title: Smoke and Mirrors. My excuse was that I wanted to be reading short stories on the beach when we had our camping weekend.
Right before our departure date, I read the wonderful story “Chivalry,” about an old British woman who finds the Holy Grail under a fur coat in a secondhand shop. Neil mentioned in the intro that this was one of his favorite stories to read aloud at convention appearances and the like. I decided to use it as a bedtime story in the tent, and read it aloud to my girls two consecutive nights, complete with Brit accents for the speaking parts.
Neil has a very warm and sweet understanding of chivalry. I also learned from this collection that, as I suspected from his writing, he loves cats. These things were definite points in his favor. Nevertheless, I find I am still terrified of the man. He is such a rock star and I am too old to be crushing on rock stars. He was just in Brazil at the big, famous literature festival, where people waited five hours to get his autograph. He contributed to a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly alongside several musicians and TV and film stars. (I discovered both these facts without googling for them, just so you know—I can’t help it if the guy is everywhere these days.)
I would rather be infatuated with someone shy and obscure, thank you very much. But no, I had to glom on to the only author in the world who is cool (J.K Rowling, Dan Brown, Stephen King, et al. are famous, but not cool). I had to be swallowed up into the mob of several billion people who adore this guy. Oh for the days when I could blog about Les Stroud and actually get a nice email from his assistant and gifts from him in the mail. (Aw heck, these days I’ll bet even dear Les is too big for that kind of stuff anymore!) Hell would freeze—no, worse, the price of gas would drop to a buck-fifty, before Neil Gaiman would ever find this blog of mine.
And his writing! Blorg! Neil Gaiman has that way of coming up with the most tortured and torturing concepts and putting them on paper so eloquently that you can’t help but think about them even as you are repelled. I’m convinced he alternates between posing as a polite, old-fashioned, harmless English gentleman and being the devil incarnate and armed with a PC. To be fair, he can’t help making the most of his genius, and in real life I’m sure he’s truly a nice guy. But as “animus material”—fodder for the imagination—he is just so dangerous.
Never fear though, dear readers. I found a nice form of therapy this week. I wrote a short story, all within 24 hours (a miracle for me), called “Don’t.” I embraced fully, in a fictional format, the anguish that intermittently is my Neil Thing. The guy in this story is just as charming, just as guileless, and just as wicked as my imaginary Gaiman is. The girl is, well, some poor feckless fool like me. Think about that title and you may guess what she says and what he does anyway and what she lets him do after all. It’s not a happy story but it kind of knocked my socks off. I hope I’m not the only one who will feel that way.
This week I met via email a new fan of this blog named Elizabeth, who found me by googling Criss Angel. This lovely woman is on a very similar wavelength to myself and certainly gets what it’s like to be drawn to someone who scares you. I have a feeling it’s a chronic thing with many women, this attraction to guys though you feel it may well hurt you to care for them. Happily, Elizabeth and I are doing this stuff on an imaginary plane, so (for the most part) our anguish is also on an imaginary plane. And I found it remarkably therapeutic to dive through the wall that separates reality from unreality, and there on the other side giving in to my sweetest dream/worst nightmare...and then writing it all down.
It’s great to be a writer at times like these. And if reading a lot of Gaiman is going to have this sort of effect on my writing, I’ll put up with the anguish.