Monday, November 29, 2010

Please Ignore Vera Dietz: Fireworks in My Head

This is not a review of Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

 I just want to say, thank you, A.S. King, for writing books. 

I'm not one of these people who always wanted to be a writer. The only reason I ever a wrote a book was because I wanted something to read and it wasn't on my shelf. Unfortunately, what I wanted that day was Vanity Fair written by Terry Pratchett while possessed by the ghost of Karen Blixen. What I ended up with was a book-mutt that suffers from literary hip dysplasia and nervous fits. (Given the recipe, that was inevitable.) But I had discovered that writing is an enjoyable way to read, so I wrote another book.

Early readers found it too dark and complicated. 

They weren't wrong. It was dark and complicated. At that point it seemed  obvious that writing was my eccentric hobby, like knitting dachshunds. Life proceeded. I read more books, because that is the way my life proceeds.

Then I read The Dust of 100 Dogs. Fireworks happened in my head. That's why I read. I love it when that happens.

First of all, it's a rattling good story. I ripped right through it like I was twelve and it was the last book on earth. When I read the last page, I wasn't finished with it and it wasn't finished with me.

A few days later, while I was working away on an index for an ecology text book my brain took a moment and said, "What the hell? That Dog-Dust book is dark and complicated."
And my brain was right about that. My book was no The Dust of 100 Dogs, but being dark and complicated didn't make it wrong. So I named Jack King-Fisher's mom Dr. King and sent Loa's story off to Andrew Karre* when he asked for little books, which worked out great for me and The Freak Observer.

I should also mention that I was really grumpy when I found out that A.S. King hadn't written anything else for me to read. 

But now she has. 

I've been wondering what I could possibly say that would add to the conversation about Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Critics love it. Those who read for the joy of reading love it. I certainly love it. 

"Why?" I wondered, "Why do I love it?" I read many books, all sorts of books. I respect most of them. I learn something from all of them. Then there are books that make fireworks in my head. 

I don't know if there is any how-to-write manual that gives step-by-step instructions for making fireworks happen in a reader's head, but A. S. King knows how to do it.

Consider these three words:

   slutty linebacker raccoon

Those three words are a triumph.

Everything is right about that language and the image it makes. 

And it is pure genius, in my opinion, when raccoons return to the story and shit on the doormat of a very unhappy home. Because, you know, when that happens it's fireworks in my head. 

Please Ignore Vera Dietz is a story of heartbreak and resilience written on a McDonald's napkin in ink distilled from the smell of dead vanilla mouse. 

That, in a little fractal nutshell, is why I read. Thank you, A.S. King, for writing books like these.

* What I didn't know then was that Andrew Karre was involved in The Dust of 100 Dogs. I could have known, if I'd read the acknowledgements. I don't think I'm the only reader who never reads those. It's the Museum of Coincidences, what do you expect?

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