I have written before about the funny way the world seems to aggregate information and bring it to you at the most relevant moment, although, of course, there is always the bias of things you see only at the moments you are able to see them – they might have crossed your path a thousand times without an imprint on your retina.
So here I am, experiencing this new instance of such a-la-carte catering to one’s soul. Two weeks before leaving on holidays, my brother and his girlfriend brought the girls two books: a Narnia volume and Coraline. We have spent the first couple of evenings reading a page of each, but they were so narratively similar up to the moment of passing through the door (which was funny in the same „mental drawer” way, but that’s another story), that we dropped one for a while, so as to give it full attention later, and stuck to Coraline for the holidays.
Independently of all this, two issues ago, one of the few magazines I ever subscribed for sent me a book, carefully packed together with the issue. There was a stack of books in line for reading, some borrowed and due back, some shared by close friends and so more compelling as an exercise in togetherness, so it was only the day we left that I got around to picking it up. I would never have done so by myself in a bookstore – the book is called
The Art of Asking and, if there was ever a concept I was terrified of, that would probably be it. Also, the cover was a picture of the author reasonably naked and looking extremely vulnerable. All the more reason to avoid any cognitive dissonance with a big detour around it. But then again, the people of this magazine had chosen it, and the last time they had sent me a book, I had cried. I trusted them to know what I needed to be confronted with, and I was treating their recommendation to some degree just like one from a friend, so I packed the book together with Coraline in the suitcase and took off. The first couple of evenings of the holidays we read Coraline out loud as our eldest slowly got caught up in the story. (It’s a Romanian translation, so it’s more difficult for her to follow than in Dutch – I mime a lot on the side.) But, as you do on holidays, we spent the evenings laughing and talking and drinking, so there was no „
own” reading time. However, a few days later, over coffee, my brother saw me with my book open. He was amused: „
You do know she is his wife, right?” „Whose wife?” „This girl you are reading, Amanda Palmer, she is married to Neil Gaiman, the author of Coraline”. I felt like I was passing through the door to other worlds myself – all these people I knew nothing about, who apparently were terribly famous, in what cave had I been living? And also, how funny that our holiday bag brought them, together, to my attention.
The thing is, of course, beyond the anecdote, that the real reason for writing this is to say thanks. Which may be an awkward thanks, given that Amanda (it even feels awkward to call her by her first name) is someone who is thanked often by a solid base of fans for her music changing or improving or enriching their lives. I do not think I have ever heard an iota of her music, other than by complete accident and without being aware of it. For the sake of the authenticity of the thank-you note, I have even abstained from opening a youtube window to look it up. For the sake of the same authenticity, I must say I’m only halfway through the book. But realising to what degree her network of… I guess, simple and pure love works in real internet time, I feel compelled to send it back as it is working on me: while-in-the-process. I am not trying to distill things I am learning just yet – it would be wrong, inefficient and somehow rude not to let the insights (and the poetry) change my fabric slowly. I just meant to say hi.