Friday, September 26, 2008

Fiddling Around with Fairies While Rome Burns

I feel a little Nero-ish, talking about a book I recently read and liked in light of the google news headlines ("WaMu tumbles") I just went past to get here. But since I have rejected the suggestion that I boycott my blog in order to bring congress to its knees, I think I'll just go ahead.

I've been waiting for Justine Larbalestier's How To Ditch Your Fairy since I began reading about it this summer on Bookshelves of Doom, Whatever, and Justine's own blog. Did you know that she's married to Scott Westerfeld? Anyway, the book was worth the wait.

The main character of the book, Charlie (for Charlotte Adele Donna Seto Steele), has a parking fairy. Whenever she's in a car, it gets a primo parking space. Being only 14, she doesn't appreciate this. So she's trying to ditch her fairy by walking everywhere. Evidently, a fairy will go away eventually if you don't use it. Only one person in the book seems to know much about fairies, a character's mother, named Tamsin, and she doesn't publish her book about them for fear that it's not yet "complete" enough. So the world is left knowing only that "some people don't think it's a fairy that makes sure that every car I'm in gets a parking spot. Some say they're ghosts or some kind of spirit, and some people, like my dad and Steffi, don't believe it's anything but luck."

Charlie and the reader become believers in fairies, however, when Tamsin shows Charlie her fairy's "aura" in a special mirror, and when Charlie uses Tamsin's book to trade fairies with Tamsin's daughter Fiorenze, who has a boy-attracting fairy. Charlie thinks it will be great to have all the boys' attention, but soon finds out that it's a nuisance and that most of them don't really like her, but are merely compelled to act as if they do.

Fiorenze tells Charlie that Tamsin herself has had
"'at least six different fairies....The current one is a never-being-late fairy. I think it suits her best. She's very, um, OCD. It drives her insane when she's late because of trains or planes or whatever. But now nothing keeps her from being on time.'
'And before that?' I asked.
'The first one I know of was a loose-change-finding fairy.'
'Hmmmm, bog ordinary. I can see why you'd want a different one. But not exactly a nightmare fairy....'
'The second was a good-hair fairy,' Fiorenze said...."

At the end of the book is a "list of known fairies," and here are some of them:
Bacon: Ensures your bacon is always cooked just how you like it.
Bladder: You never need to go in the middle of a movie, and when you do need to go there's always a bathroom around.
Cat: All cats like you even if they bite or scratch everyone else.
Clean clothes: No one will ever spill ketchup on your white sweater again.
Clothes shopping: You will always find clothes that flatter you and they will be drastically marked down.
Getting out of trouble: When you break the rules, teachers and parents don't notice.
Good hair: your hair always looks good.
Good skin: your skin is always clear.
Grip: Whatever you pick up stays in your hands until you decide to let it go.
Photogenic: You look great in every photo ever taken of you.
Never getting cold
Never getting lost

You get the idea. This book has started a debate at my house, about what kind of fairy we'd each like to have. The best fairy, we all agree, would be the one that gives you daily benefits. My idea that a getting-hired fairy would be good was rejected on this basis. I'm currently debating between a never-falling-down fairy (traditional fairy stories make me fear that although I wouldn't fall, I could still twist ankles or knees while upright) and a what-you-should-have-said fairy (I'd always say that thing you think of right afterwards, what you should have said). Ron is thinking that he'd like an apt quotation fairy (you'd always have an apt quotation spring to your lips at the appropriate moment). I asked Walker if he'd like a catching fish fairy, but he said he thought a never-being-late fairy would be more useful to him. I proposed a safe swimming fairy to Eleanor, and she quite likes the idea, although being fifteen she really wants a good hair or good skin fairy.

So now you are invited to join in--what kind of fairy would YOU like? Let's have something to distract us from the headlines of impending doom!


paj said...

Eleanor shows great wisdom at 15; lots of people make it through life solely on good hair or good skin. When Walker is older (and not subject to adults' schedules), he can always get himself places on time. My mother and mother-in-law are never late for anything. They drive their families crazy by being inappropriately early, but they're never late. Perhaps an "on time" fairy is a better choice. Ron should consider that his friends would easily tire of always hearing an appropriate quote from his lips. (But wait. Would the fairy understand that and sometimes not supply a comment?) Your should-have-said fairy idea is a good one, but again, would the fairy sometimes have you be silent?
So now that I've critiqued all of your fairy wants, what is my heart's fondest desire? A dog hair extinguisher fairy. I can't think of anything that would have a greater positive impact on my daily life! (But if calories and waistlines weren't what they are, I'd like a fairy who would enable me to always pick the best kind of pie. When at a restaurant, one never knows if that establishment's coconut cream is better than its chocolate. Or the apple streusel better than the pumpkin.)

Jeanne said...

Come to think of it, maybe I need a being-silent fairy to silence me when I'm about to say something I shouldn't...

Jeanne said...

Justine's blog has rules for her publisher's "what kind of fairy would you like" contest that runs until April, 2009:

Anonymous said...

What about a caustic blurt fairy? Or is that just the opposite of a being-silent fairy?

Jeanne said...

I guess it depends on whether you like making caustic blurts. I could use a little less of that particular fairy.