This is something like a review and something like a confession. Originally, I had planned a satire piece about something different. Then the TX Legislature defaced democracy and I was angry. When I’m angry, I write. (I also write when I’m happy or just because it’s Tuesday, but this time, it was anger.)
But I don’t want to write about Texas, exactly. I want to write about this book, because this book is unlike anything I’ve read. (Note: I read a lot; this is saying something.)
Here’s the review-like part: This book takes childhood and the whole of existence and somehow turns it into a charmingly bone-shaking narrative that touches on life in too many places to be ignored. And you should read it. Why? Well, lots of reasons, actually.
If you like a good story, that’s a good reason to read it. If you remember childhood as equal parts magical and horrifying, that’s another good reason. If you want to lose yourself in a story that will break and mend you and never answer any questions without giving you three in return, that’s another good reason.
You should read it because it’s good.
Now I leave the bounds of a traditional review for a minute. When I read it, I expected a story — one that dealt with childhood, magic perhaps, fantastic themes definitely and characters that would stick with me. That’s the kind of thing reading Mr. Gaiman’s work typically yields. It was an adequate expectation.
What I did not expect was to have rips and tears in my being stitched gently back together, giving me names for rends in the fabric of my life.
An event in the life of the narrator overlaps with an event in my life — eerily so, actually, including relative age. The narrator has, later, a chance to forget the event that is horrifying and saddening to him. He chooses to remember.
“I want to remember,” he said. “Because it happened to me. And I’m still me.”
That last sentence: I’m still me. That’s the incredible magic in remembering. The narrator didn’t choose to be defined by the event, which was forgotten by everyone else involved, but to remember it because it was part of his story. Part of the fabric of his narrative. And it remained true despite the “snipping” of that event, the editing that happened.
What happened didn’t change who he was or his value or importance in the world. For all practical purposes, no one else would even know of it. But he chose to remember anyway, even though forgetting seems so much easier.
I choose not to be defined by the events in my life. But I will remember. Because it happened to me.
And I’m still me.