Monday, June 15, 2009

How to Talk to Girls at Parties from M is for Magic

I've mentioned this collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman before, when reviewing The Graveyard Book, because the story that book grew from is included in this collection. It's a favorite collection for my daughter and me, so I'm going to tell you about some of the best stories from it individually. Our very favorite story is entitled "How to Talk to Girls at Parties."

The narrator of this story is a teenage boy, the kind who, when he goes to parties, usually ends up "in the kitchen listening to somebody's mum going on about politics." His friend is the kind of boy who ends up "snogging the prettiest girl at the party." So while the friend, Vic, is taking the narrator, Enn, to a party a friend has told him about, he's giving Enn advice on how to talk to the girls he'll meet there: "They're just girls," said Vic. "They don't come from another planet."

So when they get to the party, Vic goes off with the prettiest girl, and Enn tries to talk to a girl he meets, asking "are you from around here?" When she shakes her head no, he asks her name and she says "'Wain's Wain'...or something that sounded like it. 'I'm a second.'" Attempting to keep the conversation going, Enn says "That's, uh. That's a different name." She tells him "it indicates that my progenitor was also Wain, and that I am obliged to report back to her. I may not breed." Enn, in an unexpected burst of suavity, says "Ah. Well. Bit early for that anyway, isn't it?"

When a girl tells Enn that she must report on her impressions of "this place of yours," he thinks she means the section of London they're in and then "wondered if she was American." Things keep getting weirder, but Enn reacts as if it's merely getting later at night and the party guests are getting drunk. A girl whose name is "Triolet" makes Enn think "my generation had not been given hippie names," and when she says she is "a poem, or I am a pattern, or a race of people whose world was swallowed by the sea," his response is merely "isn't it hard to be three things at the same time?" To this she points out that "you are Enn...and you are a male. And you are a biped."

Just as Enn is at the point of kissing Triolet, Vic grabs him and runs out of the party. Vic is terrified and crying, but Enn continues to think about the poem and reveals that "this all happened thirty years ago."

The fun of the story is the detail in which Enn remembers the events of the night, and the way conversations and observations come together to show clearly that these girls really are from another planet. Just as teenage boys always suspected. Didn't you?


lemming said...

Sound like the party at which Arthur Dent and Trillian met Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Harriet said...

Lemming, I thought of the same thing!

Jeanne said...

Yes, Harriet and Lemming, the story is like a younger Arthur going to a party with someone like Zaphod--except that the girls are from another planet, unlike Trillion, who was from...England.