Reading Neil Gaiman and enduring summer

So, I am back in Minnesota. Ashley and I are separate once more. Blogging may become more frequent, mainly because there’s so damn little else to do. And of course there’s still a lot to talk about – everything to talk about, that is. Ashley’s Internet still isn’t working, which is utter bullshit. Right now, there’s not a whole lot that feels very comforting or reassuring. In fact, I would go so far as to say we live in an inconvenient, uncomfortable, impersonal, unfeeling, and generally hostile world. And more evidence is added to the heap each and every day, unless you’re having some peculiar string of good luck.

It seems so far like every single part of life is a crossroads, splintering months or days into times when you can go in one of many directions, seeking out the lesser evil. I feel so consumed with tedium. I guess I just want to go forward and embrace what pleasant things life has to offer. What was I remarking about to myself earlier today? It’s hard to decide that what you care about in life is art, when that’s not what the rest of the world cares about, and they’re going to try to force you to stop caring by starving you to death if you don’t devote parts of your life to what you consider less meaningful. Like slaving at some pointless task that just happens to exist, quite possibly for inane reasons, and which someone is willing to pay you money to do. It’s so Sisyphean. Desperation takes hold.

I feel like I should talk or think a little about culture. Beautiful culture, able to carry me away from the gloom and heat of everyday life. Thank God for it. I haven’t yet been able to watch many movies, for one reason or another, but during my depressing bus ride back here, I did finish Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things. I’ve had Gaiman on my mind occasionally, it seems, in recent weeks – after all, he’s dating Amanda Palmer, he wrote the stories for the Who Killed Amanda Palmer book, I’m halfway through his Sandman series, etc., etc. Gaiman is just a great (in all senses of the word) creative presence in the world today.

As for the WKAP book, it’s a very pretty multimedia explosion: all these photographs, from all over, all with Amanda Palmer, and she’s (almost) always dead. Often we’re left to wonder who killed her and why (the last page mentions that Gaiman himself is serving 20 to life in Sing Sing for her murder); sometimes the stories scattered throughout give hints, or more, as with the picture that shows AFP lying on a hillside, surrounded by groceries, with a typewriter on her head (one of my personal favorites). Some of the pictures are deeply creepy, such as the image of Amanda’s corpse with her eyes painted over her shut eyelids, accompanied by a villanelle that goes “We dine together every night…”

© Amanda Palmer

© Amanda Palmer

So in the end, what to make of the book? It’s a whimsically morbid little achievement, blending photography, short stories, poetry, and even music (the album lyrics are interspersed throughout); it’s certainly perfect for anyone who hasn’t yet had enough of Amanda Palmer and her death. I’m sure Ashley will have more to say about the book once her Internet starts working again. And, of course, the amount of nude photos here makes it a hardened necrophiliac’s wet dream. But I’m kidding. It’s equally sexy for those of us who prefer the living. (Incidentally, I happened upon this interesting review of a Q&A featuring Amanda and Neil.)

Ashley's Murky Turkey - appropriate for the occasion

Gaiman’s Fragile Things, meanwhile, was about as exciting a way as there is to spend a 30-hour bus ride. Makes me wish I’d had a novel or two of his, as well. The collection jumps all over the place: poems both humorous and sublime; stories about love and loss; and some very chilling horror. The best, I’d say, example of the latter was “Feeders and Eaters,” which is hard to summarize, except to say that it kept me in a very creeped-out state of suspense until just about the last few lines. Gaiman claims in the introduction that it was inspired by a nightmare, and I’d go so far as to say it’s probably inspired a few nightmares itself. My other favorite story would have to be “Keepsakes and Treasures,” all about an enterprising psychopath who calls himself Smith and his boss, the fabulously wealthy pederast Mr. Alice.

More than anything, Gaiman’s fiction makes me want to write, as it trades so heavily on the act of storytelling itself; his poem “Locks” repeats what Gaiman calls the closest thing to a credo he has – “We owe it to each other to tell stories” – and it’s this passion for spinning a yarn, creating fiction, bequeathing some nonexistent occurrences to posterity, this is what strikes me most about these stories and what they give to me (as, after all, my Digital Storytelling instructor Rachel Raimist said endlessly: a story is a gift). As I recall, in Sandman, Dream is repeatedly described as the lord of stories, and his realm even contains a library with all the stories never written, such as Alice’s Journey Behind the Moon. And in his own way, it looks, Gaiman is himself a lord of stories, a kind of meta-storyteller examining and reappraising the value of everything from the Alice books to Narnia, Goldilocks, and Sherlock Holmes. I’ve always rather wanted to tell stories, and this is a desire that reading Fragile Things has rekindled. So thank God for this multitalented inspiration who, unsurprisingly, last I heard resides around the Twin Cities.

I guess I’ll go now. I’ll eat a little, try to finish Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Gertrud and start something else. Maybe read, maybe write. These are desperate days. So I’ll probably spend a lot of them at the library.

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Filed under art, Media, Meta, Personal

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