From The Depths Of The Withering Nether

July 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

As usual: has all of the beef.


So much to do! I’d best start from the beginning:

Week 28: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

This book. Oh, this book.

Every so often I find a writer who thinks in a way that’s similar to mine and that similarity allows me to think we’re operating on the same wavelength. I feel I understand that author; what they were trying to do and that allows me to appreciate what they did that much more. But the best part about finding an author like that is when they are similar to me in thought, but very different in execution.

Morgenstern, in The Night Circus, created a fabulous, wonderful, and moreover beautiful world that was a joy to read about. She is an author that lets you see and feel the world they made and when you stop for a minute, you really feel like you’re coming up for air. Some of the best books, the ones that really matter, take me out of the physical space I’m in so that when I take a break or look around, I have a second of disorientation and wonder “where am I”? And she was able to do this through her description.

I have a confession to make: I’ve never had a candy apple before. It’s just…nothing something I’ve done. Further, I can’t stand  toffee popcorn, because a) it is gross and b) regular popcorn is already a gift from the gods, so why taint something already pure?

However, since reading this book, the lengths that she went to describe these things that I’ve never had or hated made me think, wistfully, might I add, “Well, maybe it would be good…” or, “maybe I should give it another shot…”

For the record, caramel corn is still really gross, but the jury is still out on candy apples.

That said, this book, as a debut novel, has it’s share of problems. This is neither surprising nor is it unfortunate; it simply is. I found the plot to be needlessly complex and overly difficult. For the first bit, it follows two magicians who have entered a strange sort of duel that will be fought by their young proteges. Rather suddenly, it jumps to the magical circus that becomes the arena of the intentionally poorly-defined contest, and suddenly, again, a love story appears.

Now, I know I’ve heard something like this before, but where…

Now, I’m hardly the one to complain about poor plotting (I anticipate changing about 40% of the stuff I’ve already written for Lovers), but it makes me feel like she was trying a little too hard. Also, this is a picture-perfect example of plotting yourself into a corner. I loved her story, but as a result of the contest being intentionally vague both the reader and the characters are carried along on a swirling ride without a clear destination. However, much like the carnival in the story, it’s enjoyable enough that you don’t mind. Yes, after I read this, I wanted to go out and start my own magical circus. Not for the first time do I curse magic for not being real!

Oh, and clearly (as all indications suggest the book is doing well, commercially speaking) they knew what they were doing, but Holy crap I hate the present tense in fiction.

The whole book is written as though it is happening. “Marco walks into the tent and turns around: “What are you doing there?” He asks.”


Now, that’s entirely my own taste taking precedence for a second, but guuuuuh. I know it’s convention that books are written in the past tense, and conventions are made to be broken, but much like punctuation, it’s the way it is for a reason. That reason being class. The present tense makes me think that the author is doing a of “wink wink, nudge nudge” and implying the reader is actually there. While yes, Morgenstern is making this an experience as much as a story (and therefore it’s perfectly justified and works in this book), it still makes me a little angry.

And no one likes John when he’s angry.

Second, I owe you lot something for blowing Wednesday so spectacularly. And here it is! Remember, the winner asked that I make a fable reminiscent of Dr. Seuss/Edward Lear. I did it, and enjoyed it so much that I made two. Technically, one’s an old poem that I wrote on a whim and enjoyed so much I’m putting up here for the fun of it, but it’s still two damn it. It’s nonsense, but one of the fun things about nonsense is that you can play with sounds and words while telling whatever damn fool story you feel like telling.

So first, an ode to Mr. Saturn:

Dear Mr. Saturn, or, The Mysteries of the Universe

O, Mr. Saturn, your circulous rings

ensconce such mysteries as the

Combobulate Bung-chuk and

the frum-frum bush.

Your eye is quite dashing,

even though it’s on Mr. Jupiter

right now. Send him a message,

kindly asking it back,

and I’m sure he’ll understand.

But bring a cheddar cheese

pickle and an apple

chopped in pomegranate sneezes

to trade for what is yours.

And arrange for young Hailey to be

there, if we’re lucky

we can ride her comet

and on wings of fiery ice, we’ll go

Into the black sides of the

moors, hidden away from

curious Hubbles and mawkish

photons rushing back to Einstein.

And in the darkness of a billion

stars, we’ll dance the night away

until the sun goes up

and the morning comes at last.

And now, the requested fable!

My Scufflebum and I:

A Cautionary Tale

My Scufflebum is a curious beast,

all feathers and withers and horns,

he sits on his hill and does what he will,

and eats almost nothing but bones.

I love my Scufflebum, though I don’t understand

why he’s always picking his nose,

or spends such time in the space t’wixt his toes,

whenever I come for a visit.

I’m looking for gold!”

or so I am told,

by a scurrilous one such as he,

who’s looking for treasure,

under the feather,

that’s attached to the end of his nose.

I visit my Scufflebum daily,

and we converse like old gentlemen.

I nod and I bow,

he moos like a cow,

and together we’re kings among men.

He asks me, gently and kindly,

if I would be willing to part,

with that most important of things,

(always said with a grin),

my (now) quickly beating heart.

And I always say “No, I’m in no hurry to go,

and find being alive is quite fun.”

He turns with a frown, and then I’m upside down,

running away from my Scufflebum.

He chases me through forests,

past trees old and hoary,

We race past swamps both near and far,

as from his plurious throats he is roaring.

Every time I make it away,

and leave him behind in the dust,

but I’ll visit again, some other day,

O, I wish that I didn’t! But I must.

For as much as he tries to eat me,

and I find his appearance most leer-y,

I’m the only young boy,

who has, as a toy,

a real live living Scufflebum.

My mother says,

You young foolish boy,

don’t you know about Scufflebums?

They reek and they’re vicious,

their spit’s black and viscous,

and children; they eat those that are dumb!”

I know she is right, as mothers are,

but I find staying away is quite hard,

for never again will I see,

a beast such as he,

In lands either near or are far.

One day I stopped by,

simply to extend my greetings,

and saw him asleep! His sonorous sneezings,

were the only sign this monster was sleeping.

I snuck in close,

far more than I dared

on a day more normal and clear.

I wanted to count the teeth in his snout,

and for that I needs must get near.

The words of my mother I recalled in my head,

Don’t trust that miserable geezer!

He’ll cheat and he’ll lie,

you’re going to die!

Stay away, lest I lose you, I fear!”

But I was bold,

barely seven years old,

and knew that monsters couldn’t hurt me.

I’d heard it in songs,

where, from heroes brave and strong,

villains would (usually) flee.

So I went up to my friend,

(for what else do I call

my very own, live living Scufflebum?)

I approached him in silence,

I intended no violence,

from my heart there was barely a “thrum”.

At the size of his teeth I marvelled,

at the length of his fingers I gaped.

His skin, I saw, was blue, and in awe,

I saw his eyes, open, white, and pearly.

I shivered and jumped,

as with a great “GULP”,

he ate me right then and there!

For he hadn’t been sleeping,

he’d only been cheating,

and lured me deep down to his lair.

That then is my tale,

and listener, beware!

For Scufflebum’s aren’t to be trusted.

They’ll cheat and they’ll lie,

and you’ll surely die,

and their stomachs are dank, dark, and musty.

Stay away, I implore you,

heed my warnings both dire and true,

from one boy to another,

whether winter or summer,

eating children is what monsters do.

Don’t ever take one as a friend!

Unless you, (yes you),

who is curious and bold,

and looking for a Scufflebum of your own,

Come calling up here,

with nothing to fear, and

wish for him to gnaw on your bones!


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