What I'm Reading
It's been a contentious couple of weeks, and I need a breather from posting on all the things that are going on in the world. As I noted the last time I did a post on my reading habits, after a day of reading newspapers on line and visiting political blogs, I need a break, so I curl up with my kindle and my cat in the evenings and read fantasy.
At the time, I was re-reading Terry Pratchett's Disc World novels and pointed out that what was so satisfying even beyond the satire and hilarious word-play was the notion of a marvelous world co-existing with the mundane world, and sometimes that marvelous world was wonderful and sometimes horrifying.
Now I'm reading a lot of Neil Gaiman. I've read several of his novels: Neverwhere, Star Dust, Anansi Boys, and am currently reading a collection of short stories: Smoke and Mirrors. Gaiman extends the idea of the marvelous being simultaneous with the mundane to include the ability to move from one to the other. His protagonists often move from the mundane to the marvelous because that's where they came from. Sometimes they move because that's where they belong. In either case, the movement requires an action by the protagonist; he/she can't just passively slide into the marvelous.
His collection of short stories begins with an introduction which notes where each of them was originally published and which give some idea as to the creative process he goes through when writing. To illustrate his point, he includes a brief story as part of the introduction, the first time I've ever seen that done.
The stories themselves are quirky, filled with unusual (yet plausible) reversals, some humor, and a whole lot of ambiguity. Yesterday morning, at breakfast, I read the story "Changes." It's about a medical scientist who finds an amazingly successful cure for all cancers. It involves re-installing the RNA and DNA so that the body can properly defend against the invading cells. It works, but it has an unusual side-effect. It reverses the genitals of the patient. Women who take the treatment suddenly have penises and testes; men labia and vaginas.
Clearly this is disconcerting, but amazingly, that side-effect soon becomes the main selling point for the treatment. People change their sex quite cheerfully on a regular basis. This "off-label" use of the drug dismays the scientist who refuses to take the treatment himself when, in his 90s, he develops prostate cancer. As he dies, he utters just one word. I'll not give the spoiler, but I promise you it isn't "Rosebud."
Imagine my shock when later in the morning in a very synchronistic moment I hear that the Supreme Court had found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and refused to overturn a California Appellate Court decision on Proposition 8.
That Neil Gaiman is some writer, eh?
Labels: What I'm Reading