What an odd week of stories. We’ve got two ostensibly true stories, one story broken up into several even smaller stories, and another one of those stories that seems to require a little bit of homework to understand. Also, the return of the sodium yellow light, which really needs to be retired. On the plus side, I’m pretty sure I liked all of the stories this week, though I have yet to match my love for the first week’s. A girl can dream…
“Good Boys Deserve Favors”
I can totally get behind this story, about Gaiman as a double-bass-playing tiny person who didn’t like to practice. I never liked to practice my instrument as a kid, either, although I never had the opportunity to sneak a book into my “practice sessions” and I feel a little gypped. (I probably shouldn’t say that.) The climax of this story is interesting — the young Gaiman finds himself chosen to play his double bass in front of a potential school donor, and he just makes something up and manages to please most of the listeners, though it’s not clear just how good this made-up piece is. The fact that his headmaster described it as “modern, yet classical,” leads me to believe that it was probably very very weird, and that possibly the story is really about how Potential School Donors are not terribly discerning in their music.
“The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch”
Okay, this is another ostensibly true story, though in this one I think that “ostensibly” is the key word here. Ostensibly. Because what we have is the story of Ostensible Neil Gaiman getting dragged to the circus with some Ostensible Friends and a
n Ostensibly Crazy Person called Miss Finch, and then ending up (beginning up? Gaiman starts the story with the ending) without Miss Finch but with some delicious sushi. The circus is no regular circus, and no Night Circus either, but some odd conglomeration of things like knife-throwers and trick motorcyclists and fake hand-losers who take their guillotined fake hands and chase people around with them to the Benny Hill theme, apparently. But the real story part of the story is that geobiologist Miss Finch, who has all night been bitching about the circus and also the dangers of sushi, gets picked to have her wishes come true and suddenly saber-toothed tigers exist and the circus disappears. And even in the story, it’s not clear exactly why this happens… did Miss Finch really get her wishes? Was she a well-done audience plant? Was the whole circus some sort of elaborate joke on the Ostensibles? At first listen, I was a bit annoyed with the story for not giving me any useful exposition, but after reading it again I’m content to come up with elaborate exposition of my own and call it canon.
“Strange Little Girls”
This story did not come across at all in audio, so I just skipped it and read through it later. The reason it fails in audio is that all of the pieces in it are just paragraphs, and you don’t get the print formatting that tells you, hey, these are all separate little stories and not actually about the same person. So it’s a bunch of little stories about different people, and actually they’re less “stories” than “snapshots” or whatever the print equivalent is. So, difficult to describe. I’ll just stick with saying that my favorites are “Love” (in which a woman totally gets a man in trouble with his wife) and “Heart of Gold” (whose structure just amuses me).
I liked this story a lot, even though I know nothing about harlequins outside of Harley Quinn and it is obvious that I am missing a lot of the subtler points. But with my second small-but-literal spit take of the book, at the point when I realized that was no paper heart pinned to Missy’s door, I couldn’t say no to the rest of the story. I really liked the Harlequin character, who is completely ridiculous and well-rendered by Gaiman on audio, and who gives his heart to a human called Missy for funsies, apparently, and then follows her around to see what she’ll do with it. Well, once Harlequin makes the mistake of telling her whose heart it is, Missy becomes my favorite character as she takes the heart and eats it with ketchup and hash browns so that she can become Harlequin herself, and leaves the erstwhile Harlequin to the human life. Ketchup and hash browns, people. I love it. And now I must go look up this commedia dell’arte stuff, because it is apparently delightful.