Monday, January 29, 2007
My Kind Of Fairies
Faithful readers of this blog may have picked up on the fact that I cannot abide fairies. I am cringing as I think of them. However, as it turns out, they are far more tolerable when they are drunken Scottish punk rockers.
I am vague on the glories of punk rock, but I find Celtic music to be masses of fiddles and whistles that after a while all begin to sound alike. Surely giving it a punk rock twist as the fairies Heather and Morag are intent on doing in The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar can only be an improvement.
The Good Fairies of New York is what I think of as a Zenny book. In order to enjoy it, you have to give up any need you may have for a strong linear story line and get into the moment. The Good Fairies is told in chunks that meander back and forth among a large number of characters, many of whom are named MacThis or MacThat. Each chunk, though, contains some kind of entertainment, some kind of gem. You just need to give in and enjoy them.
Heather and Morag are in New York after being thrown out of Scotland for blowing their noses on the MacLeod clan's banner. They are both fast friends and bitter enemies, and they separate, each taking up residence with a human who can see them. (I can't remember why. But does it matter? Not a bit.) They wreak havoc throughout the city while trying to bring together Heather's nasty, unattractive young man and Morag's lovely, sickly young woman, which, they hope, will mean they can take possession of the young man's fiddle because...
Well, that's a lot less important than the fact that neither Heather nor Morag knows the other fairy is plotting to bring the humans together.
Then there are the Marxist fairies in Cornwall plotting to bring down the English fairy king. And the bag lady who thinks she's a military figure from Greek history. And the advertisements for phone sex that keep turning up on the TV.
Because the plot rambles so, there's not a strong narrative drive that will make readers call in sick to work so they can stay home to read more and see what's going to happen next. On the other hand, nearly every page holds some kind of delight. (And, especially in the second half of the book, many of those pages contain some kind of copy error. Millar's copy editor failed him badly.)
In short, The Good Fairies of New York is a light, pleasant but edgie read for people who don't take their fantasy too seriously.
The Good Fairies of New York was nominated for a Cybil last fall, though it was published as an adult book. Since at that point the award didn't have a policy regarding whether or not adult books would be considered (something I think should be decided one way or another before next year), it was part of our reading list. While the fairies in The Good Fairies are into sexual activity and drinking, and then there's those quite graphic phone sex advertisments, those aren't the main reasons I wouldn't consider the book a strong contender as a YA book.
Generally speaking, I think that in order for an adult book to make the cut as a "recommended" book for YA it should have YA characters. The human characters in The Good Fairies of New York appear to be twenty- or thirty-somethings. It should also have YA themes. Say, something along the lines of separating one's self from family or determining identity. The theme for the adult characters in The Good Fairies of New York would be closer to "Here I am, engaged in my life, and it sucks. A big disappointment." I don't think that's a bad theme, by the way. It's just more a theme for books about twenty and thirty year olds than it is for books about teenagers.
Older teens, the kind who are more into rock than fairies, may enjoy The Good Fairies of New York the way they might enjoy any adult book. It probably shouldn't be shelved in the YA section, though.