I can think of nothing more apt for the rounding-out of a year than a fleeting little fable on outplaying inevitability. If you’re anything like me, Inevitability is one collector you’ve managed to send off-course at least once this year, and that itself is cause for champagne. Happy New Decade to all, but especially to those who continue to believe relentlessly in the potential of literature.
There was a time when I was little (and I was so cute, and so little!) when I wanted to be Jane Bowles. I was obsessed with the puppet show, unhealthily so, though thinking back now, I can’t think of any self-respecting adult who’d have introduced such a cute little thing to it.
I’m more than a little eager to introduce this bit of Jean Stafford– in fact, the last time I was this eager, I was about to jump out of an airplane, an activity I was undertaking using age-faked identification, which was, to the best of my memory, the only time I’ve ever vomited directly onto the feet of an airplane pilot (the pilot then said this wasn’t the first time his feet had taken ablutions this way). And wait, I don’t mean to conflate Jean Stafford with my own underage retching.
My friends, a confession: I am a sucker. Little stray kittens and musty books and vegetably steamed dumplings…. these things were basically made for me. And stories like this belong on the list of things for which I’m a true sucker, and by “like this” I don’t necessarily mean Austrian (though I don’t mean “decidedly not Austrian” either). And I don’t necessarily mean the sort of story that plucks your arteries and uses them to serenade you corrido-style. Although, again, I don’t have anything against that either….
For those of you who will not be spending the weekend dressed scandalously and behaving just as badly, or scaring young children, or throwing personal hygiene product in the trees of your enemies, …
It was recommended some time ago by a guy named Alex that I read the entire four-story cycle of The Rajah’s Diamond, and it is a request I’ll perhaps fill someday. I’m in the throes of a mini Stevenson obsession right now, so it seems the proper and selfish thing to do. But for now, I wanted to warn you that as an aperitif, what I’m offering here is, in fact, the last story in the cycle.
It’s probably one of the better things in life — right up there with creative breakthroughs and lasting love and the slurp of streetside oysters — to have one’s hat tipped to new and great authors. In my case, it doesn’t happen often, because I’m finicky and discriminating with my own tastes, or as others have said, snotty. Some of my closest friends, in fact, have sworn never again to share enthusiasm of their own discoveries, for fear of my response. I’m not proud of this….
So I have this tendency, as you may have noticed, to take a sharp left at matters of personal divulgences, which is a difficult thing to pull off today, given the severity and somber-ity of a story like this one. But so, okay, here you go, three very revealing facts about my own self to accompany a story of introspect and plaintivity and other words existent and non-:
Can I tell you something about my speculative fiction habits? Of course I can– this my barroom restroom wall and the red marker’s in my slimy mitt.
Here’s the thing: I just love stories about sentient animals. I can’t get enough of talking dogs or super-intelligent rats or telekinetic polar bears– this is the stuff of unconditional love.
Well, I’ve been reading some unavoidable news about Death Panels and baby killing nazi zombies terrorizing in the Norwegian mountains and all sorts of incessant catfighty nastiness which I suppose our world can take, given that it’s really all pretty hopeless, when confronted by the threat of health care. Or zombies.