6 July 2001

I want you to know that when they describe the California hills as golden, what they really mean is brown. Brown brown brown.

I bought bathroom cleaner yesterday that claims to be "Country Scent." (It was the only kind they had, and I need to have clean bathrooms.) Has the person who made this marketing decision ever been to the country? Good news! We have a vast improvement on the scent of your bathroom! We can make it smell like a barn instead!

(Anyone who thinks the dominant smell of a barn is usually freshly mown hay -- come with me. I have much to show you.)

Also, there was a bumper sticker on the car in front of me: "Stop Youth Violence." Adult violence, evidently, is fine. It's just the youth variety that's no good.

Some of you -- especially the ones who are David -- will be happy to know that I liked the book I read yesterday, Sleeping In Flame. Did not hate it. Was not disappointed in it. Liked it. This is something of a change, lately. I think Jonathan Carroll and I have vastly different worldviews, and the more of his books I read, the more I think so. But that doesn't mean I can't like the books.

One of the major differences, I think, is that he assumes that everybody has a much stronger common concept of reality than I think we all do. I suspend disbelief every time I open a novel, not just an overtly speculative novel, but any novel at all. Sure, the world where aliens haul off Octavia Butler's characters to interbreed is different than mine, but so is the world where Rabbit Angstrom lives, and quite frankly, I have a much easier time believing in the aliens. Which is why we own all the works of Octavia Butler we've been able to find and only one Updike short story collection, which I bought for a class. Any author, not just a speculative author, presents something to us and says, "Hey, look, people are like this, the world is like this." And it doesn't take telepathic purple rhinoceri to make us wrinkle our noses and say, "No, they aren't. No, it's not."

But Carroll thinks we all agree on the trappings of reality, or at least he acts like he does. He feels the need to ease us quite gently into the fantastic, showing us all along that, really, human beings are the same clear through, and really, we don't need to be afraid of the magic that's going to show up in the book, even though it's scary, we can still think about it without being scared. And I keep saying, "It's all right. No, really. I'm not scared. I'm more curious about the old ladies with the strange dolphin language, actually. Can you go back to that bit? They don't have to have a class reunion, really. I'm fine without it."

Don't dip my toe in and then pull it back out again -- it's okay, it's not too fantastic. Just dump me in. I'll cope. I have fewer preconceptions about your world than you think I do. Splash. I'll get it.

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