Friday, May 16, 2014

Why I Abandoned Orphan Children and Took Up With a Unicorn

Loyalty and Duty.

In my world, Loyalty and Duty are key to making the human race something other than a seething mass of monkeys.  

Yes, humans are still ego-driven and self-centered and narcissistic and easily distracted by shiny objects and in general humans suck,


every person I love is still a person, so I guess I love people.  With all our flaws, I love people.I don’t so much love people who are disloyal, or people who abandon their duty.  Nobody owns a duty they didn't choose.  I chose a workplace job that allows me to provide for my family in the best way I can. 

It is a duty I chose.  I may not always enjoy the workplace job itself, but it is still the best available option for me, as far as I can tell.  If I abandoned my workplace job, I could no longer do right by my family.  Bad tidings would ensue.  

I go to work because that’s the duty I chose.  I am a loyal friend and mate because I can’t be anything else.  No extra effort is required of me. I am just loyal.

Game of Thrones: Eddard Stark.  Brienne of Tarth.  Davos Seaworth.  Jon Snow.  These characters exemplify Loyalty and Duty.  They all get screwed, but so does every character in Game of Thrones.

And I abandoned them.  I abandoned them and Arya Stark, and Bran, and Sansa, and everybody who is helping them -  I’ve known these characters and loved them all for years, and yet I have abandoned them to a life (however long) of torment and despair at the hands of author George R. R. Martin.

I feel terrible about it.  Every time I pass the end table in my living room, I can see A Dance with Dragons laying where I left it, bookmark still in place.  It taunts.  I know it contains the answers I seek about the Stark children and about all of Daenerys’ terrible choices, but I am just not strong enough to sustain all the horror and brutality that befalls them on the pages.

Please understand my conflict - books and characters are people, and I have abandoned them!

Here’s what’s even worse: I have taken up with other books and characters.

I am emotionally compromised from my workplace job.  Like the Game of Thrones books, my workplace is also a relentlessly brutal place full of surprising twists that make the situation worse each chapter.

With my own real-life-generated stresses, I cannot sustain any more George R. R. Martin inflicted pain.

THAT”S my excuse for cheating.

I turned my back on all the George Martin characters.  In my time of emotional weakness, I sought refuge in my vast library of books I haven’t gotten to just yet but that I keep collecting because I have a sickness (Bibliophilia?  Bibliomania?).In my library at home await detectives and rebels, soldiers and Jedi, wizards, and a seething mass of humanity in prose.  All of them, waiting for me.  All of them invited onto my bookshelf at the beginning of a promise I made to them that they would get my attention and they could tell me their story.
 And then I ignored them. 

 Among the neglected and dust-covered was a unicorn.  Really.  A unicorn.  Not my usual thing.  I have been many things in my life, but a young virginal girl has not been one of them.  
And yet, the unicorn was on my list, demanding to be read next, accompanied by all the people in my life who have told me that I MUST READ The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle.
I’ve never been good about doing what I am told, even when I’m told by people I trust.  Besides, fantasy circa 1968?  I read all that as a kid.  Been there, done that.

AND my copy had kind of lame cover art.

AND I read it anyway.  And . . . I could not stop.

As it turns out, The Last Unicorn is utterly, overwhelmingly delightful.  Every phrase is poetry, a lyrical and spare prose that allows a reader the feeling of what is described and what it means all at once.

The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.”

Every sentence evokes memory and sentiment, without the book itself being very sentimental.  It is a book of love, about love, made of love.  And as adults, we know that love can be harsh. 

This is not a children’s story, it is a live story.  It is FULL of life.  Fantasy life, made real by the brilliantly unusual prose.

At one point, the unicorn is turned against her will into a human girl:

“For a moment she turned in a circle, staring at her hands, which she held high and useless, close to her breast. She bobbed and shambled like an ape doing a trick, and her face was the silly, bewildered face of a joker’s victim. And yet she could make no move that was not beautiful. Her trapped terror was more lovely than any joy that Molly had ever seen, and that was the most terrible thing about it.”

This is a book for any child old enough to want to read it, and for every adult, because they should.  

This story made me pause for air.  Peter Beagle wrote something that caused my eyes to leak.

Like a straying wayward husband, I may at some point come back to A Dance with Dragons because what is happening to the people inside the book?! but first I am adding more Peter Beagle books to my crowded and neglected shelf full of family I haven’t gotten around yet to reading.

All of you waiting for me inside the books: I will come to you soon!